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The use of social background in the novels of Ellen Glasgow

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of the Department of English
University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
lone Zellhoefer Sawyer
February 1940
UMI Number: EP44136
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This thesis, written by
..........10 NE Z . S A W Y E R ...... ......
under the direction of h.Br. Fa cul ty Committee,
and a p p r o v e d by a l l its members, has been
t |3
presented to and accepted by the Council on
Graduate Study and Research in p a rt i a l f u l f i l l me nt o f the r e q u i re m e n ts f o r the degree o f
F a c u lty Com m ittee
C hairm an
(k 9
INTRODUCTION ...........................................
Introduction ......................
The decline of the a r i s t o c r a t ................. 1
The stand against secession
................... 1
The last crusade .
............................ 5
The revolt of the common m a n ..................... 7
............... 7
The rise of the farmer
The emergence of the workingman in Virginia
Prospect . . . . .
. .
II. ECONOMIC P H A S E S ........................
The p l a n t e r ...............
The common farmer
.................. 20
The tenant f a r m e r .................
............................. . . . . 3 0
Industry and l a b o r ..............
The industrialist
The industrial worker
....................... 31
...................... .37
III. E D U C A T I O N .................................
Aristocratic concept of education
.............. 41
The education of the gentleman . . . . . . . . .
Education of the lower classes..........
The democratic trend in e d u c a t i o n ........
The conflict of viewpoints . . . . . . . . .
The persistence of the old tradition . . .
The triumph of the democratic ideal
The Presbyterian..........................
The Methodist and the B a p t i s t ...........
SOCIAL L I F E ................................
The Episcopalian
The ante-bellum order
. . . . . .
The gracious way of l i f e ................
The life of bondage
The current of tradition . . .
Poverty and family p r i d e .............
The impact of materialism
. . . . . . . .
The revolt against chivalry
The insistence of the class pattern
. . .
The upsurge of the common p e o p l e ..........
The middle class
The poor w h i t e s ........................
The Negroes
The new e r a ..............................
The materialistic way of life
. . . . . .
The trend toward liberalism
.......... 118
C O N C L U S I O N .................................... 127
. . . . . . . .
Economics.................................. 128
Social l i f e ................................ 130
Estimates ........
. . . . . . .
BIBLIOGRAPHY.......................................... 138
Symptomatic of an awakened intellectual curiosity in
the science of sociology in the present century is the sudden
rise of the social novel, often referred to by the somewhat
more restricted title of novel of manners.
In this type, the
novel-rises above the level of a mere excursion in imagination,
and may become of documentary value In its serious analysis of
social phenomena.
It is a thoughtful approach to, not an es­
cape from, reality.
From the time of the early stories of Hamlin Garland
one may note the growth of the novel depicting the modes and
thought and conduct of a certain region or locality with which
the writer is familiar.
Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson
have attempted to interpret the Middle West, Mary Ellen Chase
and W. W. Jacobs, sectors of New England, Julia Peterkin,
North Carolina, and Ellen Glasgow, Virginia.
To anyone, then, who was interested in the manifold
drama of American life, the novels of Miss Glasgow would have
an attraction.
The very word "Virginia" would perhaps accentu­
ate that appeal; to Americans the name is rich in associations
historical, romantic and picturesque.
At the outset of a study of the social backgrounds of
Miss Glasgow’s novels, the question arises as to her qualifi­
cations for her task.
Investigation leads to satisfying con­
clusions, which may be stated without comment.
Her own life
(she was born in 1873) or that of her parents is concurrent
with the social scene of which she writes.
As a member of one
of the "first families” she has been in touch with the finest
cultural life of the state.
Practically her entire life has
been spent in Richmond, which in a peculiar way is in senti­
ment, as well as in fact, the capital.
Not only has Miss
Glasgow been an integral part of the scene of which she
treats, but she has always been a voracious reader, with an
especial emphasis upon the economic and sociological fields.
Her life has been exceptionally serene and well
Unlike many literary artists, whom stress of cir­
cumstance has distracted from a settled program of endeavor,
she has been able from early years to regulate her pattern of
living according to the fixed purpose of writing stories about
her native state.
Miss Glasgow brings to her work a mental equipment
conducive to success in breadth of vision, insight, and of
more significance, a tolerance and a sympathetic concern for
people of all social levels, attributes not generally associ­
ated with the Virginia patrician.
She is primarily the artist,
genuine in her emotional responses but without passion or
Conspicuously absent in her'are the instincts
of the reformer and propagandist.
To spread before the
reader a truthful, unbiased picture of the social scene is
all-sufficing and ultimate.
The task Ellen Glasgow has set before herself in her
sequence of novels may he succinctly stated: to present the
changing social life of Virginia through the medium of the
art of the novel.
The purpose of this study is to ascertain
to what extent and how effectively Miss Glasgow has accom­
plished her task.
Of her eighteen novels, sixteen will form
the basis of this inquiry.
Phases of an Inferior and The Wheel of Life are con­
cerned entirely with life in New York City, and therefore have
no bearing on this problem. While The Descendant,for the
most part, has also the same setting, the Virginia scene oc­
cupying the first chapters of the book justifies its inclusion.
(In Historical Sequence}
Glass of Society
The BattleGround
Aristocratic Plant­
The wheat coun­
try near
The Descendant
Poor white hybrid
The Voice of the
Poor whites and
rural aristocrats
and vicinity
and Richmond
The Romance of a
Plain Man
Urban poor whites
and aristocrats
The Deliverance
1883-93 Rural aristocrats
(Retro­ and poor whites
1863- 68 )
Life and
The Ancient Law
Aristocrats and
small-town middle
Halifax county
The Miller of
Old Church
g . -190>
Poor white and
small farmers
The tobacco
Barren Ground
Yeoman farmers
Louisa County
The Sheltered
The Builders
Virginia and
Class of Society
One Man in His
Aristocrats, poor
middle class
The Romantic
c. 192022
They Stooped to
Yein of Iron
Upper middle class
The Blue Ridge
and Richmond
Four of Miss Glasgow*s novels give intimate and in­
dividualized pictures of the shifting forces that have con­
tended for dominance, over the political scene of Virginia
from the Civil War to 1922.
The Battle-Ground presents the
gentleman planter in relation to the secession movement and
serves as a foundation for the interpretation of the political
trends as treated in the other three hooks.
The Voice of the
People and One Man in His Time deal frankly with the politicosocial struggles from 1S80 to 1922; in The Builders the author
looks backward to the Reconstruction days and forward to a
new Virginia awakened by the World War.
With Miss Glasgow
the presentation of the political angle is never an end in
itself, but is rather a means toward more clearly interpreting
the never-ending social struggle.
The stand against secession.
The year preceding the
outbreak of the Civil War was filled with burning political
discussions in the South.
Though the Cotton Belt was seething
with threats of secession, the political leaders of Virginia,
largely patrician planters, continued to work in the hope of
saving the Union.
Such a one was Peyton Ambler.
"During the
spring before [I860] he had gone South himself to a convention
at Montgomery, and he had spoken there against one of the
greatest of the Southern orators. 1 His state had upheld him." 2
In ^February of 1861, a convention was called at Richmond at
the suggestion of Virginia in a final effort to avert catas3
"Por more than two months, while North and South
barked at each other across her borders, Virginia patiently
and fruitlessly worked for peace."
When the long-dreaded war finally began in April and
the President called for troops from Virginia to invade the
South, the state immediately seceded.
Though loyalty to the
Union was strong, the ties of blood and tradition were
The Virginia gentleman cast his lot with his re­
bellious brothers to the south and dedicated himself to a
brilliant leadership in the war.
But this was a costly leader­
ship in the years to come, and one of the prices paid was the
loss of political rights in his own state.
Disenfranchisement. When' in April of 1865 the war-weary
This was probably William L. Yancey, secession agita­
2 Ellen Glasgow, The Battle-Ground, p. 76.
James Truslow Adams, The March of Democracy, III, 2.
The Battle-Ground, p. 239.
Confederates returned to their homes, or what was left of
them, they had already accepted the fact of abolition and the
renunciation of state sovereignty and were eager for an early
reconstruction without any punishment of the leaders of the
defeated cause.'
But their hopes for conciliation were
quickly dashed, for in Washington the radicals were in the
Composed of negrophiles* haters of the Southern
whites, and merely ambitious politicians, this group was dedi­
cated to overriding President Johnson*s moderate reconstruc­
tion policies and to maintaining for eleven years a stupidly
unjust and bitterly resented rule over the Southern "rebels.”
The four years of military rule and the seven of dis­
torted civil government that marked the Reconstruction period
in Virginia saw the humiliation and disenfranchisement of the
proud Confederate soldier, who preferred to stand aloof from
politics altogether rather than subject himself to the bitter
implications of the Reconstruction Act.
This abstinence from any participation in civil affairs
on the part of her legitimate leaders left Virginia in the
clutches of the scalawags and earpetr-baggers, who controlled
the state by manipulating the Negro vote.
Working through
' Walter L. Fleming, The Sequel of Appomattox, p. 32.
Fleming says in The Sequel to .Appomattox, p. 153,
"The most thoroughgoing proscription of Confederates was found
in the constitutions of Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia."
the Union League of America, an "order dominated by a few
radical whites, which organized, disciplined, and controlled
the ignorant Negro masses and paralyzed the influence of the
conservative w h i t e s , t h e carpet-baggers held a carnival of
exploitation and extravagance, while the disinherited native
sons looked on helplessly.
The feeling of the Southern aris­
tocrat is well expressed by calm David Blackburn, a political
idealist in The Builders:
¥e accepted this principle that the states had no
right to secede and were ready to resume our duties
and discharge our obligations; but this was not to
be permitted without the harsh provisions of thp
Reconstruction Acts. Then followed what is perhaps
the darkest period in American history, and one'6f
the darkest periods in the history of the Englishspeaking race. . . . The Federal Government, under
the influence of intemperate leaders, conferred upon
the negroes full rights of citizenship, while it
denied these rights to a large proportion of the
while population . . . the former masters. State and
- local governments were under the control of the most
ignorant classes, generally foreign# adventurers ■who
were exploiting the political power of the negroes.
The South was overwhelmed with debts created for the
private gain of these adventurers. . . . M y own county
was represented in the Legislature of Yirginia by a
negro who had formerly belonged to my f a t h e r . 9
At length this carnival dissipated itself; in 1877,
when home rule was established, the native was reestablished,
7 Ibid., PP. 175-6.
® Note the significant use of the word "foreign" as
applied to one not a native Southerner.
Ellen Glasgow, The Builders, pp. 115-17.
the native sons were left to deal as best they could with the
Negro and a bankrupt state.
The last crusade. Upon the departure of the carpet­
bagger, the Confederate ex-soldier took charge.
The white
classes, aristocrats, small farmers, and poor whites, had
not been so quiescent as had appeared.
Forced to band to­
gether in order to regain social supremacy, often by surrepti­
tious intimidations, they had become solidly Democratic.
establish their gains, the white leaders devised means of con­
trolling Negro suffrage or nullifying it altogether.
In some
counties, the Negro voted with his former master, in the man­
ner of Judge Bassett*s Caesar: "Caesar is a gentleman.
He was
the first darkey in Kingsborough to vote the Democratic
I walked up to the polls with him and the boys
cheered him."
In other localities the black vote was voided
by fraud.
Such a case was mentioned by Dr. Diggs, one in
which the Negro election returns were "lost" in the river.
That the Virginia politician regarded such measures as neces­
sary and proper is evident:
It took clever trickery to bring in the white rule
sometimes. We have a large negro majority down my
way, th^t obliged us to devise original methods of
disposing of it. It was fighting the devil with fire,
I suppose, but self-preservation was a law long before
Universal Suffrage was heard of.11
Ellen Glasgow, The Voice of the People, p. 271.
Ibid., p. 401.
The general feeling among the whites was one of un­
questioned loyalty to the Democratic party.
As it was some­
times expressed, there were "two kinds of people— Democrats
and negroes.”
It was considered shameful to scratch a
ticket or fail to vote, and to appear at an organization of
Negroes was treason to one's race.
Miss Glasgow presents
the thoughtful Southerners explanation of this undeviating
adherence to a rigid policy and a single party:
There are wrongs worse than death, and one of these
is to subject a free and independent people to the rule
of a servile race; to force women and children to seek
protection from magistrates who had once been their
slaves. The Republican Party was then in control, and
its leaders resisted every effort of the South to re­
establish the supremacy of the white race, and to re­
assert the principles of self-government. We had the
Civil Rights Act, the Federal Election Laws, with
Federal supervisors of elections to prevent the white
people from voting and to give the vote to the negroes.
Even when thirty years had passed, and the South had
gained control of its local governments, the Republi­
cans attempted to pass an election law which would
have perpetuated negro dominance.14
The aristocratic Confederate, devoted to his narrow
creed, led in the establishment of a regime of rigid economy
and faithful administration.
His efforts refunded the state,
entrenched his political party, and temporarily laid low the
menace of Negro dominance.
Content with achieving this
Holland Thompson, The New South, p. 12.
^ Loc. cit.
The Builders, p. 117.
measure of security, he surrendered to inertia, and his ser­
vices as a political crusader were ended.
The rise of the farmer.
The apathy of the Virginia
aristocrat, however, was not shared by the' common man, who
became increasingly restless from 1880 to 1892.
disgruntled were the farmers, burdened with debt and dis­
couraged by the constantly downward trend of crop prices.
Concerning his own plight Arnos Burr, defeated poor-white
tiller of the soil in The Voice of the People, remarked:
Tain’t no use my plantin’ as long as the government
ain’t goin* to move nohow. It’s been promisin* to help
the farmer ever since the war, an* it ain’t done nothin’
for him yet but tax him.1-*
Resentment grew; and finally, in 1892, the small farmers,
with the aid of the middle and the working classes, wrested
control of the Democratic party away from the Bourbons.
This victory of the newer, less restricted generation
of the low-caste Virginian is symbolized in the remarkable
career of Nicholas Burr.
IS/hile Amos Burr was helpless in the
morass of futility, his son, Nicholas, riding in on the tide of
agrarian opposition to the established order, became a leader
of the party and governor of the state.
Such an elevation
" ^he Voice of the .People, p . 200.
to prominence would have been utterly impossible in the days
of the Old South.
The patrician sons of the old Confederates endeavored
still to maintain the prestige of their class.
Alert and
capable, they were present in considerable numbers at the
political assemblages, attempting to increase their following
by the time-honored tactics and classic, oratory of their fathers.
But rhetoric and "the gorgeous purple periods’*
not lure the agrarians from their determined course. Mr. Galt,
a delegate to the state convention
which nominated Nicholas
Burr to the governorship, commented shrewdly on the ineffec­
tual political efforts of the gentleman in the middle nineties:
Someone defined oratory the other day as the fringe
with which the inhabitants of the Southern States still
delighted to trim their politics . . . so.I should call
the gentleman of today "a political tassel." He’s
ornamental and he hangs by a thread.^-8
Obviously the tassel could not sway the sturdy political
garment that had been woven in the field and the workshop.
plain man would not be dissuaded from his purpose; he took
Ellen Glasgow, One Man in His Time, p. 3.
Dorothea Lawrance Mann says that Miss Glasgow in­
veigled' a family friend into smuggling her and her sister
into a state convention in order to secure first-hand material
for the detailed and vivid description of the political' con­
vention in The Voice of the People. (Dorothea Lawrance Mann,
"Ellen Glasgow: Citizen of the World,” -The Bookman, 64:265*7271,
November, 1926.
The Voice of the People, p. 287.
advantage of his newly-gained power and grimly prepared for
a long struggle with his old enemy, entrenched privilege.
The emergence of the workingman in Virginia.
man was now either small farmer or wage earner.
The plain,
The great
industrial expansion of the present century was evidenced by
the rapid development of mills, factories, and railroads and
the consequent increase in the number and importance of the
Though the state remained predominantly agricultural,
the labor element became sufficiently strong to exert a con­
siderable influence on the conduct of political affairs.
So significant, in fact, was this group by 1920 that
Miss Glasgow was inspired to write One Man in His Time, the
story of one Gideon Vetch, son of the circus, who attained
to the governor*s office through the support of the working­
men. 19
The Richmond20 aristocrats were disconcerted by the
vigorous, self-taught presence in the Governor's Mansion.
They all, as Mrs. Culpepper put it, tried "not to think of
that man as Governor of Virginia.**21 Gentle people were un­
accustomed to "the raw head and body bones eloquence"22 of
19 One Man in His Time.
20 Miss Glasgow's fictional name for Richmond is
2^ 0ne Man in His Time, p. 75.
22 Ibid..-p. 21.
Vetch*s speeches; and Stephen Culpepper, even after the ex­
perience of the World War, "wondered if it were characteristic
either of ’the plain people,* as he called them or of circus
riders as a class that their minds should go about habitually
unclothed, yet unashamed."
As was natural, Gideon Vetch’s attempts to help the
working classes were considered impractical or unnecessary
by the reactionary politicians, of whom Mr. Benham was repre­
sentative :
I haven't a doubt, as I told you, that he believes,
sufficiently for election purposes, in the fallacies
that he advocates.24
To what extent the Governor's proposals were "fallacies,**
viewed in the light of subsequent history, can be appreciated
by examining his own statement of belief:
Definitely I stand for a progressive reorganiza­
tion of society r * . for a fairer social order and
a practical system of co-operative industry, the only
logical method of increasing production without re­
ducing the labourer to the old disorganized slavery. I
believe in the trite formula we workers preach . . .
in the eight-hour law, the old-age pension, which is
only the inevitable step from the mother's pension,
the gradual nationalization of mines and railroads.
I believe in these things which are the commonplaces
of tomorrow. 25
By his honesty and clear-sightedness Gideon Vetch
eventually won the respect of some of the more liberal among
23 I^id., p. 23.
ZU Ibid.. p. 150.
25 Ibid., p. 178.
the "first families," and by those same stalwart qualities
he alienated certain extremists among his supporters.
brought the crowd with me as far as I thought safe,” he ex­
plained, "and now it is beginning to turn against me because
I won’t lead it over the precipice into the sea."
the Governor strove at the capitol to relieve the distress
of the underpaid- laboring men, the disaffected leaders,
taking advantage of the unrest, organized a general strike
that would "tie up the whole system of transportation” umtil
their opponents were starved into submission.
In the attempt
to dissuade the strikers from this ill-advised action, Gideon
Vetch was killed by the mob.
The working men had been able
to place one of their own in a position of power.
But they
had not yet learned the wisdom of waiting and in their vio­
lence proved that they knew no moderation.
It was just as
Gideon Vetch had once said:
The trouble is that all human nature, including
capitalist and labourer, is tarred with the same
brush and tarred with selfishness, li/hat the op­
pressed want is not freedom from oppression, but
the opportunity to become the oppressors.27
The commoner had failed to realize that "justice to all alike
is the cornerstone of democracy."*0
26 Ibia-, P- 222.
27 Ibid., p. 223.
Ibe Builders, p. 51-
With One Man in His Time (1922), Miss Glasgow’s de­
piction of the political changes covered the time from i860
.to 1921, in short, from one war through to another.
1922, the planter aristocrat of the Old South had been per­
manently displaced in the control of Virginia government
by the common man, whether industrialist, small farmer, or
Because plain man and Bourbon alike were conscious
of a negro menace inta two-party system, the Democratic
party remained supreme.
The feeling was growing, however, that
a single party was not an unmixed blessing, in that it tended,
as David Blackburn expressed it, "to prevent constructive
thought and to retard development."^
While the common man
had continued to show a marked tendency to select men of his
own type to represent him, there was less prejudice than
formerly against the sons of the "old families" as office
holders, as is indicated by the novelist’s suggestion of
Blackburn’s possibilities for a political career.
The surge
of patriotic emotion during the World War served to bring the
Virginians closer together and to establish a new awareness
of a national spirit.
The same war enthusiasm had opened the
way for women to seek public office but kept the door adroitly
closed against the negro vote.
Ibid., p. 19.
And now, after sixty years of
political class struggle, the New Virginian was called upon
to forget the dissensions of the past and to invoke the
heroism and integrity of his fathers in an effort to meet the
challenge of the future.
In contemplating the future of her state Miss G-lasgow
has made David Blackburn in The Builders the spokesman for
political idealism.
Nurtured in the tradition of the aris­
tocrat and humanized by the bitter experiences of a povertystricken boyhood, he represented the new Virginian at his
potential best.
He never doubted the attainability of the
ideal democracy.
For America, he said, "is a land of indi­
vidual men, not classes, and the whole theory of the American
state rests upon the rights and obligations of the citizen,"-*0
upon his willingness to accept responsibility for political
and social justice.
Virginians, he asserted, must overthrow class prejudice
and put aside sectional feeling.
He saw the South, "not made,
but becoming."^*1' The old Confederate believed the South
sacred and separate from the Union, but David Blackburn,
"also believing it sacred, was convinced that it must be
Ibid., p. 109.
, P. 194.
absorbed into the nation . . . that its traditions and
ideals must go to enrich the common soil of America.”
Then, as he had always maintained, while the great Virginians
of the past had been Virginians first, the great Virginians
of the future would be Americans,3^ putting the good of the
country before the good of the section.
32 Ibid., p. 195.
33 Ibid., p. 228,
The planter.
Prior to 1860 the economic welfare of
Yirginia was centered in an agricultural system based upon
Planter and yeoman farmer alike raised their crops
of tobacco, corn, or wheat with the aid of slave labor.
when emigration to the great cotton areas had left the sea­
board counties with a decreased population and consequent de­
cline in land-,values, many a Virginian found a compensatory
source of wealth in the production of slaves to be sold to
the planters farther south.
The tobacco manufacturers of
Richmond and Danville also looked to the broad plantation
acres for a lucrative market for their "plugs” and snuff.
fact, the prosperity of Yirginia had become so interwoven with
the prosperity of the planters that the institution of slavery
was accepted without question as the very foundation of the
economic structure of the state.
It was with the typical Yirginia plantation that Miss
Glasgow was concerned in The Battle-Ground, her one novel
dealing with the years just before and during the Civil War.
William.E. Dodd, The Cotton Kingdom, p. 9.
At Uplands
.ex-Governor Ambler, a bland and generous gentle­
man, ruled complacently over tbe thousand acres "on which his
fathers had sown and harvested for generations."
Here the
many field hands gathered the golden wheat under the more or
less efficient supervision of a white overseer, and here the
master and the mistress conscientiously watched over their
hundred black charges.
While the gentle Amblers agreed with
their ten-year-old neighbor, Dan Lightfoot, that it was "a
dreadful weight, having people belong to you,"^ they, like
the rest of their class, also concurred with Thomas R. Dew
in the opinion that the Negro, designed for hard toil, owed
himself and his work to his owner in return for protection
from violence, hunger, and cold.
The institution of slavery
was, the planters believed, essential to their peculiar eco­
nomic system; and when it was threatened from without, they
felt called upon to defend their right to it, even at the
cost of dissolving the Union.
Miss Glasgow states in a letter to the investigator
that "Uplands" was near Winchester. (Probably it was in
Fauquier County.)
’ *■' 3
• '.
Ellen Glasgow, The Battle-Ground. p. 60.
The philosophy of Professor Dew, of William and Mary
College, was widely accepted. Among its tenets were the fol­
lowing: that men were not created equal; that every man should
remain in his class; and that gentlemen should devote their
best thought to the state. See William E. Dodd, The Cotton
Kingdom, pp. 51, 52.
But the Union survived, and the economic structure of
the South collapsed under the double burden of devastating
war and the emancipation of the slaves.
Everywhere, in the
Spring of 1865» returning Confederate soldiers found property
destroyed, the labor system disorganized, and the inhabitants suffering from want.
Accumulated capital had disappeared in
worthless Confederate, bonds, the banks had failed, and the
thousands of dollars invested in slaves had been wiped out.
Many homes were in ruins; poultry, stock and draught animals
had almost disappeared; and often the idle fields were de­
serted by the black workers who had answered the siren call
of freedom.-
Of the planter class, some returned from the
war crippled or broken to face a life of destitution, some
attempted to rehabilitate their holdings, and others sought
new fortunes in the towns or emigrated to the Southwest or
the West.
For those who remained, a bitter struggle awaited;
and the farm-owners found themselves poorer in the 1870*s
than in 1865*
-Walter L. Fleming, The Sequel of Appomattox, p. 2.
A Yirginia farmer reported that from Harper*s Ferry
to New Market, a distance of eighty miles, the country was
almost a desert. ”We had no cattle, hogs, sheep, or horse
or anything else. . . . The barns were all burned, chimneys
standing without houses, and houses standing without roof, or
door, or window.” See Fleming, op. cit., p. 3.
John E. Cooke, Virginia, a History of the People,
p* 351.
One Virginia gentleman to succeed in retaining the
ancestral plantation was the genial, easy-going General
Battle, presented in The Voice of the People. His good for-
tune, however, lay less in his questionable efficiency than
in his wisdom in relinquishing to a capable sister the super­
vision of both fields and household.
So thriftily did she
manage that during the trying years of the^ Reconstruction
the Battles boasted a few mules and a dilapidated carriage
drawn by a team of horses.
The field work was done by former
slaves who tenanted the old "quarters" and received pay for
their hours of labor, while still looking to their old
"marster” in time of need.
But so meagre were the profits at
best, and so frugal the family*s style of living, that the
General*s son turned his back upon the old plantation to ex­
plore the more promising opportunities of the professions.
Par less fortunate was the family of Colonel Blake,
who, returning from the war with a broken mind, left his af­
fairs in the hands of an overseer, Bill Fletcher.
Upon the
death of the Colonel, the blind widow and her children were
dispossed for debt and sent to live with a crippled uncle on
a seventy-acre farm, while the scheming Fletcher contrived to
gain forthright possession of stately old Blake Hall.
an overseer for a bankrupt planter should produce, unquestioned,
Ellen Glasgow, The Deliverance.
seven thousand dollars to purchase the Hall at foreclosure,
is explained by Miss Glasgow in the words of Mr. Carraway, a
The events happened when the State was in the throes
of reconstruction, when each man was busy rebuilding his
own fortunes, and when tragedies occurred without notice
and were hushed up without remark.“
The Blake family, determined to hide from their blind
mother the truth of their circumstances, conspired by bitter­
est sacrifice to provide for her the little luxuries to which
she was accustomed, while they and the four faithful old ser­
vants subsisted upon cornbread, bacon, and weak coffee.
So .
much in need were the Blakes that at times the boy worked for
Fletcher with other laborers, black and white, on the acres
that had been the Blake inheritance for three hundred years.
This poignant desolation in a corrupt and unjust decade at­
tended the passing of an old order.
The heroic but futile
sacrifices of young Christopher, toiling in the fields, cutting
and curing the tobacco in the primitive, two-century-old fash­
ion of his fathers, and his efforts to repossess some of the
dignity and security of his class were symbolic of the impotency of the Virginia aristocrat to resuscitate the old
The Deliverance, p. 409. In a letter to the investi­
gator Miss Glasgow does not give the exact scene of the novel,
saying she "wished to cover the whole tobacco country"; but
Louise C. Willcox states that the locale is Caroline County.
’See Miss Willcox's article, "The South in Fiction," The
Bookman, 33:44-57* March, 1911.
plantation system.
In The Deliverance, particularly, Miss
Glasgow has employed to the full those elements of irony and
pathos that are only implicit in the dispassionate records of
The common farmer. After the breakdown of the planta­
tion system, many large acreages passed into other, and often
less worthy hands; many were broken up'and sold to neighboring
yeomen farmers
and even to poor white laborers; and others
were divided into tracts and rented to Negro and white ten11
ants. A glutted market and the consequent low prices
it possible for the common farmers to add to their holdings,
and, for the first time in generations, for the poor whites
to possess a few acres of their own#
This was the beginning
of a new chapter in the agricultural history of the state;
from that time to the present the trend was to be toward more
and smaller farms, with the commoner slowly rising to greater
The term rtyeomen farmer” is used by the historians
of the period to designate the hereditary independent agri­
culturist as differentiated from the large planter and from
the poor white laborer, who owned no land before 1865.
^ Lands worth $50 an acre were frequently sold for
$5 or even $3 an acre. See Fleming, 0£. cit., p. 4*
Richard L. Morton, in his History of Virginia, Vol.
Ill, states that in Virginia, in I860, there were 57,188 farms,
in 1885, 118,517 farms, and in 1920, 186,242 farms. (See
p. 279.)
In order to preserve the time sequence, Miss Glasgow's
treatment of the low caste rural white Virginian will be con­
sidered before that of the yeoman, as the latter is contained
in a novel concerned with a later period.
With her usual
interest in the underprivileged, Miss Glasgow has presented
four divergent examples of the poor white laborer's attempt
to better his condition, but with the obvious implication
that economic opportunity alone was not sufficient to bring
about a satisfactory way of life.
Illustrative of the transfer of fine old estates into
worthy hands, is the story of the acquisition of Blake Hall
by the overseer, Bill Fletcher,
already mentioned in this
A good farmer, Fletcher succeeded in making the
land pay, in spite of the reluctance with which the resentful
Megroes and poor whites worked for him.
He could never, how­
ever, realize his ambition to found, on his ill-gotten wealth,
a family acceptable to a resentful countryside.
He proposed
to rise in one step from the poor white level to the status
of a gentleman; and, because his instincts and his sense of
values were distorted, he failed altogether.
coarse, greedy, treading roughshod over the finer feelings
of his family, he was the embodiment of a gross, ruthless
materialism threatening to smother the very breath of virtue
in the land.
The Deliverance.
Much less ambitious and far more ineffectual was Amos
Burr, the poor white farmer of The Voice of the People. It
was said of him that he T,was overseer for the Carringtons be­
fore he. got that place of his own," and that the more "Burr
worked the less he
Though, like many of his
kind,- he was slow witted and' docile, through generations of
subservience to the master class, wearing his life out on the
"barren soil, whose strength had been exhausted long ago"
yet he had taken the opportunity, when it came, after the war
to rise from hireling to landowner.
Amos was a poor white
"who was always working with nothing to show for it— whose
planting was never on time, and whose implements were never
in p l a c e " b u t ,
in responding to that one ambitious impulse,
he had taken the first step on the road which brought his re­
markable son to the Governor's mansion in Richmond.
A most pleasing picture of a former laborer1s family
well on the way to a comfortable independence was that of
Jacob ffeatherby and his son, neighbors to the disinherited
Blakes. in The Deliverance. Intelligent, industrious, and
self-respecting, Jacob, whom Mrs. Blake remembered as a reli­
able workman on her husband’s plantation in earlier days, had
Ellen Glasgow, The Voice of the People, p. 6l.
^ Ibid-*» P« 32. The Burr farm was a short distance
from Wi11iamsburg (Kingsborough in the novel).
Ihid.*, P . 41.
developed a neat little farm purchased from the Blake acres,
and by careful management realized a modest annual profit on
his tobacco crop.
Incapable young Jim Weatherby, with his
keen social instinct and good judgment, was the promise of
the new type of rural Virginian who, in the eighties and
nineties, demanded schools for his children and a part in the
affairs of the state for himself.
The fourth instance in the Glasgow novels of the poor
white farm owner is found in The Miller of Old Church, in
which the author has presented Abel Revercomb emerging with
singleness of purpose, from the inertia traditional to his
race.. Of the locality of Old Church
and its people the
novelist wrote:
The land which had belonged to the few became after
the war within the reach of the many. At first the
lower classes had held back, paralyzed by the burden
of, slavery. The soil, impoverished, wasted, untilled,
rested under the shadow of the old names. . . . The
awakening was possible Ogly after the newer generation
had come to its growth.18
So, at the turn of the century, the aristocratic Kesiah
Gay Spoke thus of her lowly neighbors:
Before the war one hardly ever heard of that class
. . . it was so humble and unpresuming— but in the last
According to a publishers’ note, Old Church in
Hanover County is not the Old Church of the novel. The lat­
ter, however, was not far from Richmond.
Ellen Glasgow, The Miller of Old Church, p. 4-8.
twenty-four or thirty years it has overrun everything
and most of the land about here has passed into its
But Abel himself more than merited Miss Kesiah’s de­
scription of his class.
Though his widowed mother and his
brothers had bent their energies toward cultivating their
little tract in the midst of abandoned fields, it was Abel
who followed the advice of the government experts, fertilis­
ing the soil and reaping larger harvests.
It was Abel who
purchased the primitive grist mill and acquired a little capi
tal with which to buy more land.
The son of a man who had
died in shiftlessness came to be regarded as the most promisi
ing man in the county.
As Jonathan, the last of the decadent
Gays, said of him:
The Miller Revercomb is . . . a kind of new plant
that has sprung up like fire-weed out of the ashes.
Less than half a century produced him, but he’s here
to stay. . . . He— or the stock he represents, of
course— is already getting hold of the soil and his
descendants will run the State financially as well
as politically, I suppose. . . . In the end it will
be pure pluck that counts, wherever it comes from.™
While Jonathan’s prophecy of the economic domination
of the state by the lower rural classes was not soon to be
fulfilled, the truth of his shrewd comment upon the efficacy
of ’’pluck” has been proved by the constantly widening breach
between the poor white who has achieved a measure of success
Ibid,, p. S4.
Loc. cit.
and the backward part of the rural population, still held
down by a stubborn inertia and an aptitude for futility.
As for the yeoman farmer, conditions typical of those
prevailing among that class have been described by Miss
Glasgow in one of her finest novels, Barren Ground, which
deals with rural life in Queen Elizabeth
County from about
1893 to 1923.
Around Pedlar*s Mill the prospect was dis­
Thirty years ago, modern methods of farming, even
methods that were modern in the benighted eighteennineties, had not penetrated to this thinly settled
part of Yirginia. The soil, impoverished by the War
and the tenant system which followed the War, was
still drained of fertility for the sake of the poor
crops it could yield. Spring after spring, the cul­
tivated ground appeared to shrink into the "old
fields," where scrub pine of oak succeeded broomsedge
and sassafras. . . . Only three of the larger farms
remained undivided in the hands of their original
This section of the county had been settled by sturdy
English yeoman and Scoteh-Trish, and it was the descendants
of these pioneers, known as "good people,"
who, toward the
In an article in the Yirginia Quarterly Review for
April, 1929, Emily Clark states that "Elizabeth County" is
Caroline County. Miss Glasgow says in her letter to the
writer of this paper that,, while the scene might have em­
braced Caroline, Louisa, Amelia Counties, and a number of
others, the location was, in reality, Louisa County.
Ellen Glasgow, Barren Ground, p. 4..
The term "good people" is not to be confused with
"good family," a phrase used to designate membership in the
end of the twentieth, century, were almost conquered by the
problem of scarcity of labor and the persistent poverty of
the soil.
One of the three remaining large homesteads just
referred ,to was rapidly retreating to the broomsedge; another
had become a flourishing stock farm through the intelligent
treatment of the soil made possible by a small legacy; and
the third provided the great-granddaughter of its pioneer
owner with a problem to whose solution she dedicated her life,
Dorinda Oakley*s inheritance consisted of a courageous
spirit and, **a thousand acres of scrub pine, scrub oak, and
broomsedge, where a single cultivated corner was like a soli­
tary island in some chaotic sea.**2^
Commencing with a small
herd of Jersey cattle bought with borrowed funds, she began
making butter for the city of Washington; and little by
little, with tremendous effort and sacrifice, she was able to
increase her stock to push her fields and pastures back into
the untilled acres.
She forsook the traditional culture of
tobacco and consistently held to rotation of crops— potatoes,
corn, wheat, cowpeas, clover, alfalfa.
As time went on, she
acquired silo, separator, and
finally electric machinery, as
well as the neighboring farm.
Por thirty years she had put
her heart into the land, and at last the benevolent spirit
returned to the land and repaid her many fold.
Barren Ground, p. 7.
The tenant farmer.
After the war, the tenant farmer
became, and has remained, the greatest single agricultural
problem in Virginia, as well as in the other southern states.
In Miss Glasgow1s words: "The tenant farmers, who had flocked
after the ruin of war as buzzards after a carcass, had im­
mediately picked the featureless landscape as clean as a
.skeleton."2'5 Landowners, faced with the difficulty of hiring
labor and burdened with debt; either retained only \shat land
they themselves could work and rented the remainder, or let
out all their holdings to tenants.
The renter arrangement
was that by which the tenant, furnishing the implements and
work stock, received two thirds of the crop and three fourths
of the cash return.
The "cropper," however, who could con­
tribute practically nothing but his labor, received half of
the crop and of the cash profit.
Such was the case with
the Negro tenants on Mrs. Meade*s farm in Dinwiddle County.
The most successful arrangement, when the renter was alert,
was that in which a section of the farm was set off for the
tenant, who not only was responsible for his own piece of
land, but worked with the landlord as well.
Such a man often
became a permanent tenant, as did Martin Flower, on the Oakley
Ibid., pp. Ut 5.
E. C. Bronson, "Farm Tenancy in the South," Social
Forces, 1:213-21.
Ellen Glasgow, The Builders.
and frequently lie was able eventually to buy a small
acreage nearby.
Generally, however, tenancy implied lack of interest
and any scientific handling of the land or crop rotation;
and this group, poorly housed, meagerly schooled, usually
insolvent, and frequently shiftless, was looked down upon as
a floating, inferior class.
Even Dorinda- Oakley*s father,
himself of poor white stock,
maintained that the tenant
system was responsible for the land’s ’’going bad” ; for ”no
man will work himself to death over somebody else’s land.”^
And most of these renters were white, blood brothers of
Nicholas Burr, Jim Weatherby, and Abel Revercomb; the differ­
ence lay in the unequal distribution of the quality called
While the rural Negro is to be found scattered through
all levels of condition pertaining to the low caste agricul­
tural workers, yet, because a considerable per cent are ten­
ant farmers, it has seemed best to consider him under that
When the slaves were emancipated, they were without
Barren Ground.
Frank Tannenbaum in Darker Phases of the South, p.
120, states that the tenant farmer moves on the average of
once every two years, and many every year or six months.
Joshua Oakley had married Eudora Abernathy, who
inherited her grandfather's homestead.
Barren Ground, p. 31.
property, education, or experience in self-reliance; but
they knew how to work and how to live on little.
many set out to seek the benefits of freedom, a large number
of the rural ex-slaves remained close to their ancestral
Some worked as day laborers in the fields, for cash
or commodities, going from farm to farm in the community as
they were needed.
Miss Glasgow has shown them tending tobacco
plants for Bill Fletcher; clearing waste land, ploughing,
and milking cows for Dorinda Oakley; and even gathering pea­
nuts for the plodding Amos Burr.
with General Battle,
Others, like those remaining
lived in their old cabins and sowed and
harvested their former master’s crops for small pay but large
assurance of help in time of trouble.
Of those who joined the ranks of the tenants, many
Negroes proved to be successful farmers, and from the begin­
ning they became small landowners more rapidly than the other
The Negroes living near Pedlar’s Mill were no
The slaves once belonging to one of the old fami­
lies ’’had sprung up thriftily, in freedom, on innumerable
patches of rented ground” and one of their number ”had re­
cently bought ; . . the farm he had worked with intelligence
and industry, as a t e n a n t . T h e better class of farmers
The Voice of the People.
Tannenbaum, o£. cit., p. 129.
Barren Ground, p. 77.
preferred the intelligent colored neighbor to the ignorant
white one.
For, as the young doctor of the community re­
marked, "The Negro who owns his ten or twelve acres is a bet35
ter manager than the poor white with twice the number."
The tenant system has steadily increased since 1880;
and, while it is not so prevalent in Virginia as in some of
the other southern states,
it constitutes a serious eco­
nomic and social problem.
But it is a white problem mainly,
for it is the white man who is retrograding, while the Negro
is steadily progressing.
The agricultural prospect of Virginia, how­
ever, is, as a whole, very encouraging.
Improved educational
facilities and better means of transportation have helped, in
the past three decades, to give the farmer a greater interest
in his work and his community.
The more or less shiftless
agriculture of the past is being supplanted by intelligent
modern methods, introduced largely through the medium of the
field schools and demonstration farms established under the
35 I M d . . p. 31.
Tannenbaum states that in the 1880*s about one
third of all the farms in the South were worked by tenants;
in 1924, one half of them (p. 128}. He also says that, in
1924, 61.5 per cent of the tenants were white (p. 129).
Clarence Poe estimates the tenancy in Virginia, in
1935, at 28 per cent; in Mississippi, 72 per cent. "The
Farmer and His Future," Culture in the South, p. 326.
direction of Seaman Knapp.
Instruction in care of the soil,
the use of machinery, dairying, rotation and variation of
crops— all those lessons learned through difficult experi­
ence by ‘Dorinda of the Barren Ground— is made available to
the entire rural population.
And if they will, the tenants
and the Amos Burrs can escape at last from futile drudgery
to a state of modest prosperity.
The industrialist.
The years that saw the collapse
of the plantation system in Yirginia marked the beginning of
a period of great industrial development.
For a few years
after the war, most of the surviving mills and factories were
closed, and the work of salvaging and expanding the railroads
progressed very slowly.
Loyal ex-Confederates, opposed to
the influx of carpetbaggers and Northern speculators, stood,
for the most part* aloof from ingenius Yankee enterprises,
only a small number of the less scrupulous or more adventur­
ous Yirginians joining in the mad money scramble of the
Reconstruction days*
As the Southerners regained control of
their state, they were forced to choose between an attempt
to recreate the old economic structure and to build a new
system upon the ruins of the old.
Younger men, convinced of
the inevitable folly of the first course, heeded the advice
of Robert E. Lee and Henry W. Grady, and turned their energies
toward the inauguration of an industrial new South.
and hesitatingly at first, capital for building mills and
factories was scraped together in many communities, and be­
tween 1880 and 1885 the number of industrial ventures doub38
Tobacco manufacture, which had suffered the least set­
back during the years of turmoil, continued to be, as in ante­
bellum days, the leading industry of Yirginia; and, since most
of the product was exported, its sale brought into the state
money that was greatly needed in the development of other
So basic, indeed, was the industry that the for­
tunes of all three capitalists of the nineteenth century pre­
sented in Bliss Glasgow*s novels, had their inception directly
or indirectly in the sheds and workrooms of the tobacco fac­
The first of these, the shrewd General Bolingbrake of
The Romance of a Plain Man. had come, like many other sons of
aristocratic planters, to find a fortune in the flux and
change of post-bellum Richmond.
Through his profitable con­
nection with the Old Dominion Tobaeco Works, he gained a con*■
trolling interest in and the presidency of a railroad.
"The tradition of Lee and Grady has been responsi­
ble for the industrial system of the South," William B.
Hesseltine, A History of the South, p. 648.
Holland Thompson, The New South, p. 89.
General represented the ultimate of success in the mind of
his middle-class clerk, who said of him:
Why, he’s done everything* H e ’s opened the South,
he’s restored trade, he*s made an honest fortune out
of the carpet-baggers. It’s something to own ninetenths of the Old Dominion Tobacco Works, but it’s a
long sight better to be the president of the Great
South Midland and Atlantic Railroad.39
But "the biggest man in the South today” regarded his
position somewhat differently.
"Ten years ago,” he remarked,
”1 was the man who tried to save Johnston’s army, and today
I am only a railroad president."
Believing sincerely in in­
dustrialism as the salvation of the South, yet still retain­
ing the ideals of his planter hertiage, he combined uniquely
the disparate elements of the old and the new Virginia.
While General Bolingbrake was directing his manifold
affairs from his Richmond office, in the town of Dinwiddie
nearby, another fortune was being harvested from the pungent
tobacco leaves and invested in far-flung enterprises by the
hard-fisted Cyrus Treadwell.
This "saviour of sinking prop­
erties," in the novel called Virginia. who had once humbly
accepted small commissions from the tobacco firm of Machlin
and Company, managed his small funds so carefully that when
the panic raent business crashing, he was able to acquire
Ellen Glasgow, The Romance of a Plain Man. p. 104.
Dinwiddie was, in reality, Petersburg.
The panic of 1873.
his employers' holdings.
Then, with the growth in popularity
of the cigarette, Treadwell's Magnolia brand was sold through­
out the country.
A few years later competition came, but
Cyrus' place was already made.
By 1883, Cyrus was enjoying
the power and the deference universally accorded a man of
energy and affluence.
The stories of the too rapid develop­
ment of the Treadwell fortune were being forgotten in the
looming shadow of his eminence.
As a young townsman contended:
Suppose he had used his railroad to make a fortune—
well, but for him, where would the Dinwiddie and Central
be to-day if not in the junk shop? Where would the
lumber market be? the cotton market? the tobacco mar­
"For there had gathered around Cyrus the great illusion that
makes theft honest and falsehood truth."
Like General
Bolingbrake, Cyrus Treadwell controlled a railroad and lent
support to many enterprises.
But, unlike the General, the
capitalist of Dinwiddie, selfish and without ideals or finer
sensibilities, found the one satisfaction of life in his ma­
terial success.
And into the hands of men far too often like
Cyrus fell much of the direction of Virginia's welfare during
the remainder of the century.
It was down in the tobacco warehouse of the Old Dominion
Company, at the foot of Twenty-fifth Street in Richmond, that
Ellen Glasgow, Virginia, p. 59.
Loc. cit.
youthful Ben Starr,
from the city*s poorest section, found
the assistance that enabled him to become the first poor
white capitalist in the state.
Through General Bolingbrake’s
advice and support, the industrious lad acquired education, a
good position, and, later, copper- and railroad stock which,
by reinvestment, eventually placed Ben among the leading
bankers and railroad directors of the region.
During the
panie of 1893, he sacrificed his fortune to protect the de­
positors of his institution against loss, and only after
heroic struggle did he regain his wealth.
Industrious, hon­
est, loyal, Ben yet made the mistake, “common among the very
poor, of attributing to the possession of riches the miracu­
lous properties of Aladdin’s lamp.
The exceptional product
of the earliest phase of the South’s new industrial life, he
manifested the opportunities inherent in the new order, and
suggested the hazards that might attend a premature assumption
of the perquisites of wealth by a class ill prepared to con­
trol them.
The fourth industrialist depicted, by Miss Glasgow had
been poor as a boy but came of the old plantation gentry.
Through his good fortune in inventing a hew process for harden45
ing iron, David Blackburn
came at length to own the prosperous
The Romance of a Plain Man.
The Builders.
iron works in Richmond.
His struggle for security over, he
turned his attention to the study of statecraft and the im­
provement of the political situation in his own state.
this twentieth century industrialist Miss Glasgow presented
a new Virginian, who was equally gentleman, successful busi­
ness man, and politician with a social conscience, the kind
of Virginian under whose leadership might be found an early
solution to the problems of capital and labor which a half
century of industrial expansion had created.
The steady growth of her industries for four decades
had resulted, before 1930, in the realization of a prosperity
unknown to Virginia for seventy years. Railroad mileage had
tripled since 1865;
the tobacco factory output, amounting
to six million dollars in 1925» had increased six times over
since 1900;
and ndw enterprises, such as the manufacture of
rayon and chemicals, were thriving.
The wealth of the state
had increased fourteen fold since 1870.
Industrialism had,
indeed, brought prosperity to Virginia; but, at the same time,
it -brought the problem of the laborer.
Railroads in Virginia: 1865, 1,390 miles; 1920,
4,609 miles. See Richard L. Morton, History of Virginia, p.
William S. Showalter, "Virginia, a Commonwealth
that has come Back." The National Geographic, 55:403-72,
April, 1929.
Statement attributed to Governor Byrd by Junius P.
Pishburn, "The New Virginia," The Review of Reviews, 81:11419, June, 1930.
The industrial worker*
The trend,of population away
from the farms and to the towns, begun by the impoverished
young planters immediately after the war, became a definite
movement in the 1880*s, when the newly opened mills and fac­
tories offered employment to the poorer farm workers.
for companionship and the lure of greater security and less
arduous toil put whole families at the operators* disposal
for very low wages.
Frequently, especially in the textile
industry, the mill owners provided stores, a church, and a
school, and rented company-owned houses, to the workers.
Poor whites of ishe country, accustomed to long working hours
and low living standards, became the poor whites of the fac­
tory and mill towns, overworked, ill-paid, usually illiterate,
and seldom rebellious.
The worker*s life centered in the mill, and the
mill owners' control over the laborers was as complete
as the control of the master over the slave village on
the plantation.50
Thus, before the end of the century, the labor of
women and children
became an accepted feature of the factory
Tannenbaum, op. cit., p. 58.
Hesseltine, op. cit., p. 659.
Though Miss Glasgow makes no mention of child labor
in her novels, the following observations are of interest.
Before the passage of the law prohibiting child labor, children
were employed in large numbers in the cigar factories and tex­
tile mills. Now Virginia requires compulsory school attendance
to the age of fifteen, but it ’’does not apply to those who have
completed the prescribed elementary course and who are regu­
larly and lawfully employed.** The state permits children of
system, and a new industrial
oligarchy assumed the preroga­
tive of privilege once allocated by the ante-bellum planters.
Without making the worker in industry the subject of
a detailed study, Miss Glasgow afforded glimpses of the class
as its members crossed the path of major characters in her
In the tobacco factories in Richmond in i860, Ben
Starr-found the Negroes employed in large numbers;
and in
1906 little Jenny Blair, of the sheltered life, discovered
that they still worked down there by the river.
A group
of striking textile workers in Halifax County became the
personal concern of Richard Ordway in The Ancient Law.
fetch, as governor, was in close touch with conservative labor
through Mr. Darrow, the carpenter, and lost his life in at54temp ting to avert a widespread railroad strike in 1921,
Labor organization and unrest in the South as a whole
did not become serious until after 1920, only such groups as
the railroad brotherhoods being strong enough to threaten
serious trouble.
twelve to fourteen years of age to work in canneries during
the summer months.' See Charles W. Pipkin, "Social Legisla­
tion," Culture in the South, pp. 64-6-77.
The Romance of a Plain Man.
The Negro has played little part in labor agitation,
except as industrial employers have used him as a threat
against refractory white groups. Usually he is hired only
in the tobacco, lumber, and iron industries.
Ellen Glasgow, One Man in His Time.
The Southern industrialists took pride in the
fact that their laborers were content to work longer
hours for lower pay than the factory workers o f the
The laborers, indeed, were mentally asleep as the new indus­
trial machine was growing up around them; and they seemed
unable to realize the loss of their inheritance.
With in­
creased prosperity since the Great War, there was a stirring
from lethargy, and ever more a tension between the industri­
alist and the white working man, as the latter began seri­
ously to revolt against an autocratic control which refused
him a share in the larger profits from the toil.
suffering and unemployment resulting from the years of the
”depression," added their quota to the worker's grievances
and tightened the hold of the capitalist upon his purse
Again the sacred rights of privilege were being
assailed, for the poor white worker in industry had definitely
ceased to be docile in his revolt against autocratic control.
In sixty years, Virginia experienced the collapse of
the plantation system and the rise of large small farmer and
tenant classes; she saw the development of thriving indus­
tries, and with it thb- shift of autocratic control from the
country to the town, from agriculture to industry, though the
population remained predominantly rural.
To the ranks of
Hesseltine, op. cit., p. 664.
^ The urban population of Virginia, in 1920, was 29.2
per cent; the rural, 70.8 per cent. Morton, op. cit., p. 382.
the poor farm workers were added the poor minions of the fac­
tories, and landlord and capitalist combined to protect their
vested interests.
But, as Mr. Barrow said, "Wherever there
is wealth, it casts its shadow of poverty” ;
and deep shadows
predict deep trouble.
True prosperity, Miss Glasgow believes,
is possible only through the elimination of extreme riches
and extreme poverty; and the economic future of Virginia will
be secure only when every man is "assured of an opportunity
to earn a living and a fair return for his labor."
One Man in His Time, p. 192.
^ Ellen Glasgow, "What I Believe," The Nation. 136:
404-6, April 12, 1933.
The education of the gentleman; In the decade immedi­
ately preceding the Civil War, the Virginia aristocrats were*,
committed to a form of education satisfactory to their own
personal needs and consistent with their position in the
social system which they dominated.
It was the accepted tru­
ism of the time that "Southern society was already sharply
stratified and that men might well avow it.”
since the gentility were the favored class, they must educate
their sons to assume the social and political responsibilities
which were their heritage; and it was the duty of each gentle­
man to make possible the proper schooling of every young man
in the family.
Illustrative of the elementary education in vogue on
the plantations are the glimpses provided in The Battle-Ground
of the schooling of the children at Chericoke and at Uplands.
Major Lightfoots* grandson and great-nephew mastered their
Greek and Latin and mathematics under the careful supervision
of a tutor, in preparation for entrance to the University.
1 William E. Dodd, The Cotton Kingdom, p. 49.
Uplands, Mr. Ambler’s young daughters applied themselves to
the gentler tasks assigned by their gqverness.
Had the war
not descended upon them, Yirginia and Betty might have "fin­
ished” their education at one of the many seminaries where
were offered instruction in music and art, English, and per­
haps French, and "such courses as were judged to fit young
women for their places in society."
As it was, the girls
were considered as well prepared for life as their mother,
who, though "hopelessly ignorant of ancient history and the
Italian Renaissance," had attained the enviable ideal of ef­
ficient mistress of a large household and the perfect wife of
a Southern gentleman.
For the aristocratic sons of the Old South, however,
the e2q?erience of college life was regarded as a necessity.
In Yirginia, the young men could choose from among five in­
stitutions of higher learning: the College of William and
Mary, Hampden-Sydney College, Washington College, the University of Yirginia, and Richmond College.
The University of
Yirginia alone, in the decade from 18*>0 to i860 had an annual
Mary K. Benedict, "The Higher Education of Women in
the Southern States," The South in the Making of the Ration,
Part III, X, 259.
Ellen Glasgow, The Battle-Ground, p. 61.
See Robert Burwell Fulton’s chapter on "Education in
the South Before the War," The South in the Building of the
Nation, Yol. X.
enrollment of nearly a thousand students,
who came under the
influence of conservative protestantism and the strict disciplinary-methods of the classical ideal of education.
times the young sons were sent abroad, as in the case of
David Archibald, who pursued his studies at Oxford,
a prac­
tice which decreased with the growing prestige of the American
The feeling of the planters that the art of being a
Yirginia gentleman was equal in importance to the attainment
of scholarship was vividly illustrated in the remarks of the
Lightfoots and their friends.
Mr. Blake, the rector, reported,
with no little relish, his reply to his daughter living in
New York in regard to the problem of her son's education:
"Shall I send him to the school of learning at
Cambridge, papa?" she asked; and I answered, "Send him
there if you will, but when he has finished with his
books, by all means let him come to Yirginia— the school
for gentlemen." . ... If you want polish, come to
Yirginia; if you want chivalry, come to Yirginia.
The Major’s answer is even more enlightening:
Nothing gives so fine a finish to a man as a few
years spent with the influences that moulded Washington.
. . . When I met General Lafayette in Richmond upon his
second visit, I remember being agreeably impressed with
his dignity and ease, which, I have no doubt, sir, he
acquired by his association in early years with the
Yirginia gentlemen.7
^ Dodd, op. cit., p. 112.
^ Ellen Glasgow, The Sheltered Life, p. 152.
The Battle-Ground, p. 55.
In his letters from the University, whence the Lightfoot
hoys had gone, in 1858, in the further pursuit of knowledge,
with their servant and their horses, young Dan evinced a simi­
lar view of the social perquisites of the gentleman.
He was
going to like it pretty well there after he got used to the
professors, who were a great nuisance; the worst thing about
college life was the having to go to classes; he might not be
as good a student as his counsin, but he was greatly inter-
ested in the new coloured cravats just come up from Richmond.
Whether in England or in Virginia, whether sought with
diligence or merely tolerated, the college training received
by the. young aristocrats of the eighteen-fifties tended to
encourage the natural taste for a leisurely manner of life and
to strengthen their faith in the established social order.
But the war between the States uprooted all order.
1865, the educational facilities in Virginia were paralyzed.
Schools, academies, and colleges that had been thronged with
students in 1861 were closed or burned or used as hospitals.
It was months before an academy or college reopened its doors
and only very gradually did others follow suit.
In the late
sixties and early seventies trustees were constantly pressed
for funds to maintain these institutions under even the most
Ibid., p. 65.
Walter L. Fleming, The Sequel of Appomattox, p. 210.
frugal regime.
The elementary education of the aristocratic youth
presented, as a whole, less of a problem.
In most cases, the
younger children of impoverished planters were taught at home,
after a fashion, by some older member of the family and even
occasionally by a penniless tutor.
However, in some extreme
cases, gentlemen’s sons and daughters, denied even the humblest
rudiments, grew up almost illiterate.
Young Christopher Blake,
who had been obliged to do a man’s work in the fields since
the age of ten, bitterly resented the fate that robbed him of
the simplest rights of a gentleman and closed to him the only
means of escape from the dulling routine of the laborer.
Precious fit for anything but the stable or the
tobacco fieldl Why I couldn’t so much as write a
decently spelled letter to save my soul. A darky
asked me yesterday to read a postbill for him down
at the store, and I had to skip a big word in the
first line.11
More fortunate than those on the isolated plantations
were the children of good families living in a village or
town, where the gentility, even when reduced to the strictest
economy, found it possible to engage a teacher for small pri­
vate groups.
Frequently, too, a comparatively well-to-do
Washington College is-an example. General Lee’s
modest salary of #1,500 a year was often in arrears. See
William B. Hesseltine, A History of the South, p. 625.
Ellen Glasgow, The Deliverance, pp. 51> 52.
gentleman, like kindly Judge Bassett of The Voice of the
People, welcomed into the classes maintained for his own chil­
dren the sons and daughters of his less fortunate ex-Confederate
That the aristocrats should ignore any opportunities
offered by the public schools in process of being established
by the Reconstructionists is understandable.
Children of
quality must not mingle -with ignorant common people; and it
was incumbent upon all members of the class to cling together,
now and in the future, to preserve the old tradition of su­
perior culture, even in the instruction of simple English and
elementary Latin.
When the darkest days of the Reconstruction ended and
economic skies began to lighten, the youthful flower of
Virginia came in increasing numbers to the classic hails of
old colleges.
Eager to strengthen the prestige of the
families in the face of a changing order, they sought to
prepare themselves for leadership in the professions or in
In contrast with the carefree attitude of the ante­
bellum students, such as Dan Lightfoot, was the serious­
mindedness of the three young men in The Voice of the People,
who applied themselves to their books at Kings College in
Kings borough*
The servants and horses were gone from the
In a letter to the investigator, Miss Glasgow identi­
fies King's College as the College of William and Mary, and
Kingsborough as Williamsburg.
campus and study was of prime importance.
Of these three
young men, Tom Bassett became a lawyer in Kingsborough; young
Battle attempted unsuccessfully to reproduce the glamour of
the elegant, hard-living patrician; and Dudley Webb defended
the wavering cause of the aristocrat in the political assem­
blies of the state.
Their forebears had achieved distinction
as lawyers and elegant gentlemen and statesmen with a facility
born of privilege.
These young sons of a trying time endeav­
ored to emulate them in spite of financial misfortune and the
growing opposition of the emerging commoner.
Nor were the daughters of the old families neglected
in the support of the traditional ideal.
Early in the
eighteen-eighties numerous academies, maintained by the widows
and daughters of those who.fell on the fields of battle,
offered correct education for the young gentlewoman.
The pat­
tern perfect of such a school was the Dinwiddie Academy for
Young Ladies so sympathetically and yet so merdilessly de­
scribed by Miss Glasgow in Virginia.
The Academy was conducted
in the ancestral home of Miss Priscilla Batte, who, left desti­
tute at the end of the war, "had turned naturally to teaching
as the only nice and respectable occupation which required
neither preparation of mind nor considerable outlay of money.”
Philander P. Claxton, "Educational Ideals and Ten­
dencies in the South," The South in the Building of the Nation,
Part III, X, 402.
The fact of her being the daughter of a fallen Confederate
hero "was sufficient recommendation in the eyes of her fellowcitizens”; and to her patrons it was less important that Miss
Priscilla train her charges well in geography or history or
arithmetic than that the moral education of the pupil of the
Academy should "be firmly rooted in such fundamental verities
as the superiority of man and the aristocratic supremacy of
the Episcopal Church.”
In the eyes of her parents, and her
teacher, it was a matter of pride that an Academy graduate’s
"education was founded upon the simple theory that the less
a girl knew about life the better prepared she would be to
contend with it.”
The residents of Dinwiddie,
along with
their neighbors of the aristocratic Tidewater area, agreed
that "the chief object in the-upbringing of a well-born and
well-bred Southern woman in 1884 was to paralyze her reason­
ing faculties so completely that all danger of mental *un-
settling* or even movement was eliminated from her future.”
As the higher education of the gentlewomen of the post­
war decades was fashioned after the ante-bellum ideal, so the
college training of the young gentlemen followed along the
classical lines approved by their grandfathers.
With the
Ellen Glasgow, Yirginia. p. 10.
Dinwiddie is Miss Glasgow’s fictional designation
for Petersburg.
Yirginia. p. 20.
sharp sting of defeat and suffering upon them, the battered
aristocrats looked backward to a social structure that was,
in their eyes, perfect.
In their nostalgia, they were de­
termined to preserve at least the culture of their race.
Let a young man train for a profession or the career of a
statesman; but, above all, he must possess the scholarly at­
tainments and the refined qualities so admired in the old
Virginia gentleman.
Thus, as Miss Glasgow points out, the
ideal of the aristocrat was rooted in the past; "to solidify
the forces of mind into the inherited mould of fixed beliefs
was, in the opinion of the age, to achieve the definite end
of all education.”
Education of the lower classes.
In the days before
the war between the States, the educational facilities then
existing, as has been shown, were naturally adapted to the
needs and standards of the ruling class— large planters,
merchants, and the professional groups.
Although Thomas
Jefferson, as early as 1779, had urged the foundation of
common schools in Virginia ”for the free training of all
free children, male and female, for three years, in reading
writing, and arithmetic,” the peculiarities of the social
structure and "the prejudice against the education of the
masses inherited from England by the ruling classes prevented
Ibid., p. 20
the establishment of any adequate system of free public edu18
cation for the children” until after 1870.
Charity schools,
to be sure, had been maintained since 1810,
through private
or religious agencies; but these inadequate in number and
equipment, bore the taint of pauperism and affected only a
small percentage of an otherwise illiterate poor white popu­
It was not until 1870, under the Reconstructionists,
that the state law providing for a free system of education
was passed, with seventy-three counties voting school taxes
in 1871.
A considerable number of new schools offering work
in elementary subjects only were established during the next
few years, and the management and support of many private
schools were taken over by the districts.
In 1871, at the
first session, the attendance at these new institutions was
and in ten years increased 68 per cent, while the
private school enrollment remained about the same.
however, and the deep-seated Virginian prejudice against
David Bancroft Johnson, "Normal Education in the
South," The South in the Building of the Nation, Part III, X,
Fleming, 0£. oit., p. 1$8«
Richard L. Morton, History of Virginia. Ill, 252.
Ibid., p. 254.
22 Ibid., p. 235.
common education, especially "Yankee"-inspired common educa­
tion, caused the ambitious hopes of its advocates to fall far
short of realization.
For a generation, the educational op­
portunities offered the poor were pitifully meager, particu­
larly in the rural district.
Many a child trudged five miles
-or more to a "little country school, where the stove always
smoked and the windows were never opened," 23
^ ■and, where more
likely than not, one untrained teacher attempted the elucida­
tion of all the elementary subjects to pupils of widely di­
vergent ages.
Yet it was a beginning. It was at such a school that
Nicholas Burr,
future Governor of Virginia, learned the
rudiments of reading in the brief winter term; and it was from
such a schoolmaster, whom the boy quickly outdistanced, that
the outcast Michael Ackersham
received the early instruction
that was to carry him far beyond the accepted limits of his
Poor and inadequate as it was, in town or country,
the little public school of the seventies and eighties was to
point the way to a new freedom for a large and disadvantaged
That the well-to-do, though usually indifferent to the
Ellen Glasgow, The Builders, p. 225.
Ellen Glasgow, The Voice of the People.
Ellen Glasgow, The Descendant.
principle of public education, were not entirely callous to
the merits of an exceptional individual, is shown in both
The Voice of the People and The Romance of a Plain Man-.
same good Judge Bassett of Kingsborough who had taken upon
himself the responsibility of furnishing tutelage for the
children of his impoverished friends, invited the "poor-white”
Nicholas Burr to improve on his scanty learning by joining the
classes under young Tom Bassett’s tutor, and then sponsored
the young man’s legal preparation.
In whimsical General
Bolingbrake, rising ex-Confederate-industrialist of Richmond,
Benjamin Starr, whose story is told in The Romance of a Plain
Man, found the answer to his ambition to become something more
than very poor and very "common."
The story of Ben* s deter­
mined progress in learning the dictionary by heart so touched
the easy-going General that he sent the lad to the scholarly
Doctor Pry, from whom was gained the training in the ancient
languages and the finer graces of society which made possible
the amazing success of the self-reliant waif from shabby old
Church Hill.
These instances, however, are unusual and are treated
as such by Miss Glasgow.
Had these boys not shown remarkable
promise and ambition, neither gentleman would have felt called
Church Hill is the old, poorer section of Richmond,
near old Saint John's, where Patrick Henry made his famous
upon to extend any aid.
Modified as it was by the humanizing
effect of their own painful experiences, the attitude of the
I’udge and the General was still an expression of the old
aristocratic concept— that quality alone deserved the advan­
tages of a good education.
A new order was evolving, but
three decades were to pass before it could be unreservedly
said that a school door was open to every white child in the
commonwealth— three decades, and a struggle.
The conflict of viewpoints.
From the withdrawal of
the last Federal troops from Yirginia in 1878 until the turn
of the century, the development of a system of public educa­
tion in the state was beset by serious difficulties.
tive of the two extremes of opinion existent in regard to the
question of free education, was the debate carried on for
several years after 1870 by William H. Ruffner, first Superin­
tendent of Public Instruction, and the Reverend Robert L.
Dabney, professor in Union Theological Seminary.
Reverend Mr. Dabney argued that, in a civilization that will
Morton, op. cit., p. 247: f. Mr. Morton says that
the high-water mark in this famous debate was a series of
articles by Dabney appearing in the Planter and Farmer and
replied to by Ruffner in the Richmond Dispatch and Richmond
Enquirer. Dabney answered with four articles in the same
two papers and Ruffner completed the series with seven more
articles in the Enquirer.
endure, there must be a class who must work and not read; pub­
lic education would lead to the amalgamation of two races in
the schools; children, good and bad of all classes, would be
•brought together with danger of physical and moral disease;
the state debt was too large to attempt such a venture.
Ruffner contended that the Negro as a moral agent had a right
to improvement by culture; educated Negroes would have more
pride of race and, therefore, would desire to remain apart;
in well-regulated schools children would be in no danger of
contamination; the best investment a state could make would
be to increase the earning power of its citizens.
Such were
the conflicting arguments set before the Virginians when the
Bourbons came into political power on the eve of the eighties*
As Miss Glasgow, for reasons best known to herself,
does not treat of the subject of Negro education in her novels,
the subject is omitted from this discussion. It might be of
interest, however, to note briefly some of the more salient
points. Schools for the liberated race were first established
by public-spirited individuals and Northern philanthropic and
religious agencies, and many of these institutions still
flourish. Later, segregated public schools were opened, which
suffered throughout the latter nineteenth century because of
discrimination in the distribution of educational funds. Still
it is significant that, in spite of handicaps, the percentage
of illiteracy among the Negroes in Virginia dropped from 86.6
per cent in 1870 to 44.6 per cent in 1900. State aid for
schools, the passing of a compulsory attendance law, and the
emergence of a more democratic attitude have affected most
propitiously, in the past four decades, the climb of the Negro
from ignorant bondage to a steadily improving status as a
Morton, op. pit., p. 249.
The attitude of this new aristocratic class was less one of
hostility to the free schools than one of neglect growing out
of an avowed policy of economy.
Many felt that they should
not he taxed for public education when they were already at
expense to send their own children elsewhere.
Though the
mass of the people favored the movement, they were inarticulate
and, the politicians, representing in general the rising busi­
nessmen, the merchant-planters, and the local industrialists,
were more concerned with economic progress, and no doubt were
not eager to see an educated laboring class.
After 1890,
however, the Populist movement forced the Assembly to provide
adequate support for the schools, and by 1900 the “educational
awakening” had begun*
In three novels, each with a rural
setting, Miss Glasgow has touched briefly upon the education
of the poorer youth of the last twenty years of the century.
Plucky Emily Brooke, of an excellent but destitute family,
taught the village school at Tappahannock
to support her
improvident brother’s family.
In The Miller of Old Church,
Abel Revercomb and Molly Merriweather and all their young
associates had received the rudiments of a public education
in a community displaying a noticeable amount of illiteracy
Ibid., p. 250.
William D. Hesseltine, A History of the South, p. 675
Ellen Glasgow, The Ancient Law.
among the older inhabitants.
Rose Emily Pedlar, closest
friend of Eorinda Oakley of Barren Ground, had been her
teacher at the district school, and had encouraged the girl
to read the curious mixture of religious tomes and "pallid
fiction” in her great-grandfather’s library.
It was with ap­
parent satisfaction that she said to Dorinda, "You’re better
educated— than most city girls, with all the books you’ve
At best, this common schooling was sketchy, but it
was the expression of a growing democratic trend.
The persistence of the old tradition.
Although the
man of quality and means was becoming accustomed to the idea
of free education for the masses, he still retained his prefer­
ence for private instruction for his own family.
The private
schools and academies prospered throughout the late years of
the nineteenth century and continued to perform an indispensible function for more than three decades of the twentieth in
preserving the refinements of the old tradition in the midst
of confusion and transition.
So strongly did the members of
the first families feel the need of following the custom of
class, that impoverished parents, like Mrs. Carr,
Ellen Glasgow, Barren Ground, p. 12.
The enrollment in the public schools of Yirginia
grew almost three-fold from 1870 to 1900, Morton, op. cit.,
p. 279.
Ellen Glasgow, Life and Gabriella.
relatives to pay the cost of Gabriella1s attendance at a fash­
ionable academy in Richmond.
In Vein of Iron, Miss Glasgow
presented the saintly John Fincastle as making a modest living
for his family by teaching a small private school at Ironside
and, later, by acting as instructor of history and languages in
"Boseobel School” in Richmond until the year 1929. IAttle
Jenny Blair,
in about 1907, was ”doing very nicely,” as her
mother expressed it, with her French conversation learned at
a private school, but wondered when she would be old enough
to read the interesting French books like the yellow-bound
ones her Aunt Etta furtively devoured.
In the minds of the
upper class, the perquisites of the lady and the gentleman
were much as they had been in i860.
The triumph of the democratic ideal.
In 1841, at a
time when few were concerned with the getting of knowledge save
for the privileged Doctor Henry Ruffner, father of ”the Horace
Mann of the South,” set forth the principles of the ideal sys­
tem of public education.
"The public schools must be good.
They must be emphatically a college for the people.
If they
are not good enough for the rich, they will hot be fit for the
It was sixty years, however, before Doctor Ruffner*s
The Sheltered Life, p. 10.
Morton, op. cit., p. 25. Quoted from a report to the
General Assembly of Virginia in I84I.
views became general enough to initiate a movement toward the
clearly defined goal of adequate schools for all the children
of Virginia.
The greatly improved economic conditions were an
important factor in the rapid development of the school system
after 1900, but more important was the change of attitude in regard to the state’s responsibility to its young people.
Early in the new century the building of high schools received
great impetus by the granting of state aid; and by 1909 Virginia
felt herself well -enough equipped to pass a compulsory attend­
-to encourage the teaching of subjects .adapted to
practical living.
This rapid development of the democratic educational
principle was evidenced in the six Glasgow novels concerned
with the years since 1910,^9 in that in each of them the public
school and the opportunity of an education for all were taken
for granted.4-0 Patty Vetch (One Man in His Time) had gone to
village school; Milly Burden (They Stooped to Folly) was a
product of the Richmond system; and little Ronny McBride at­
tended grammar and high school in Richmond, with a view to a
daxton, op. cit., p. 4-14.
Sheltered Life, One Man in His Time, The Builders,
The Romantic Comedians, They Stooped to Folly, Vein of Iron.
It should be noted, however, that each of these novels
is laid, in whole or in part, in Richmond.
scholarship at the University.
That all was not gain, however, was expressed by young
Martin Welding, when in answer to the question as to where his
education began, he said, "Exactly where it ended, in a public
If you ever attended one, you know that the word, ’edu­
cation* is a euphuism of democracy”.
The danger implicit in Welding’s words would seem to
be a tendency towards the commonplace, the mediocre.
is, to be sure, no regret expressed in the Glasgow novels that
the democratic concept had been accepted; but let that ideal
unite the best in the tradition of the past, with its oldfashioned culture and refined taste, with the energy and un­
paralleled opportunities of the new day.^-2
It is, evidently,
Miss Glasgow's belief, and likely a very wise one, that in
this new era democracy should take care to protect the higher
social groups from the levelling influences of an insistent
mass surge, and, while encouraging the rise of the lower
classes, to guard against dissipation of the finest qualities
of traditional Southern culture.
They Stooped to
Folly, 33.75.
^2 «Even though it is true that there has been an ad­
vance in the South of what the world has agreed to call- educa­
tion, there is a corresponding decrease in that art of living
whichexcels in the amiable aspects
of charm." Ellen Glasgow,
"The Novel in the South," Harper’s. 158:99, December, 192&.
From the time of the building of the first church tower
in Old Jamestown, religion had played an important part in the
life of the people of Virginia.
Though the controversies of
the relationship of- church and state with the Baptists, and
the influx of Presbyterian Scotch-Irish in the later eighteenth
century tended to weaken the hold of its clergy, the Estab­
lished Church continued to occupy a position of paramount im­
portance in the affairs of the state until after the Civil
For it was primarily the church of the patrician class,
which saw in its ceremonials and in its tenets the last tra­
ditional link with England, and the reflection of their own
genteel manner of life.
Though usually restrained, the Episcopal clergy, dur­
ing the years of Secession, joined with their fellow citizens
in a characteristically passionate devotion to the Cause.
such instance is described in Miss Glasgow’s novels.
Reverend Mr. Blake, kindly rector in The Battle-Ground, of
whom it was said during the conflict that there was ’’more gun
powder in his prayers than in our biggest battery,” petitioned
in this fashion before the soldiers in Lee’s army:
”0 Lord,
thou knowest that we are the greatest army thou hast ever
seen; put forth thy hand then hut a very little and we will
whip the earth."'*'
But, even with this modicum of divine aid, the worn
and hungry Confederates were unable to whip the Union armies.
And clergymen:who had made "an elaborate and furious defense
of slavery from Holy Scriptures"
turned to the task of min­
istering to parishes stripped of their wealth and harassed
by the aftermath of war.
The bitterness of that strife left
the South suspicious of all things Northern; and when the
Northern churches expected a reunion with their Southern
branches, only one denomination responded.^
spite of its
loyalty to the oldest Southern traditions, it was the Episcopal
Church alone that "reunited with the Northern Church immedi­
ately after the war,”^ a step reflecting credit upon the lib­
eralism of its clergymen and the confidence placed in them by
a proud and bitter membership.^
Ellen Glasgow, The Battle-Ground, p. 383.
Edwin M. Poteat, "Religion in the South," Culture in
the South, p. 253.
William B. Hesseltine, A History of the South, p. 624.
^ Edwin Mims, The Advancing South, p. 297.
5 John E. Cooke attributes this liberalism to the struggles of the Episcopal Church in Yirginia from 1874 to 1830.
See Yirginia, pp. 390-396.
From Reconstruction days forward the Church of England
in Yirginia became more than ever the spiritual focal point
of the aristocracy, who saw in it the symbol, not only of the
apostolic succession, but also of the ideals and gentility of
the Old South.
It was said, as it were a truism, that al­
though there might be other roads to the Celestial City, cer­
tainly no gentleman would choose any but the Episcopalian
way. 6
In such a light were painted those pictures of the
Established Church presented by Miss Glasgow.
Little poor
white Nicholas Burr, in his eagerness to rise in the world,
desired to be confirmed into the membership of the Episcopalian
When a gentle Sunday school teacher discoursed upon
the beauty and love of religion, he was amazed and
. . . -wondered why no one had ever before told him such
beautiful things about God and the manifold importance
of keeping a clean heart and loving your neighbor as
Enthralled with this new glory as with a revelation, Nicholas
thought he might become a minister, not a lawyer.
Then he remembered the waxen-faced, choleric clergy­
man of the. church his stepmother attended, but he put
the memory away. No, he would not be like that; he
William E. Dodd, The Cotton Kingdom, p. 99*
Ellen Glasgow, The Yoice of the People, p. 8 8 .
would not preach fire and brimstone from a white-pine
pulpit. He would be large and just and merciful like
Even to a boy the cleavage seemed very great between the un­
spectacular mildness of the Episcopal service and the fiery
denunciations of the evangelical preachers.
Typical of the aristocratic Virginia clergy of the
1880’s was Gabriel Pendleton, rector at Dinwiddie,9 exConfederate soldier and dreamer, a figure in the novel,
One of the many martial Christians of the Confederacy,
he had laid aside his surplice at the first call for
troops to defend the borders, and had resumed it imme­
diately after the surrender at Appomattox. . . .
A mili­
tant idealism had ennobled his fighting as it now exalted
his preaching. He had never in his life seen things as
they are because he had seen them always by the white
flame of a soul on fire with righteousness.1°
Not progress, but a return to the "ideals of our ancestors”
was to him the sole hope for the future.
And so wrapped in
illusion was he that he had no realization at all of his
wife’s struggles to meet obligations, and to keep the house­
hold in food and clothing on the meager salary he was afforded.
8 Ibid., p. 88.
Dinwiddie was Petersburg, Yirginia; and ’’the rectory
was the old Straehen-Harrison house, now used as a Parish
house for Grace Episcopal Church,” states Miss Glasgow in a
letter to the investigator.
Ellen Glasgow, Virginia, p. 31.
In his contemplation of an ideal and a nonexistent world, he
had denied his wife nothing "she had set her heart upon, not
even the privilege of working herself to death for his sake
when the opportunity offered."-1-!
But, when confronted with
the urgent call to action, he gave his life to save a Negro
lad from the violence of a mob.
The pen, as well as the pulpit, comes in for its share
of attention in the Glasgow stories.
In a number of instances
the author has set forth the lip-serving acceptance with which
Episcopalian church membership and creed had come to be re­
garded by many communicants in the twentieth century.
Here is
but another example of casual adherence to traditional be­
Young Mary Victoria; littlepage was disturbed by her
husband’s refusal to attend church:
But it looks as if he neglected me. Father goes with
you to St. Luke’s.-1^ . . .
We’ve always been religious,
Mother, and nice people in Queenborough go to church no
matter what they believe.13
When Eva Archbald married young Joseph Crocker, re­
spectable carpenter, it-was difficult for her family to accept
11 Ibid., p. 38.
St. Paul’s Episcopal church in Richmond.
Ellen Glasgow, They Stooped to Folly.
the situation.
The problem, however, was simplified, as Mrs.
Archbald admitted, by Joseph’s important step ’’from the
Baptist Communion to the Episcopal Church.
And everything,
of course, was made easier because Joseph had so little re­
Best exemplifying the tendency of the modern Virginia
aristocrat toward complacent acceptance of Episcopal ortho­
dox doctrine, was Judge Honeywell.
An upright, even a religious man, with a rich
Episcopal flavour of temperament, he was disposed to en­
courage liberty of thought as long as he was convinced
that it would not lead to liberal v i e w s . I*
Possessing the ’’perfect pattern of the conventional mind,” he
. .
. could recite the Apostle’s Creed so long as he
not required to practise the Sermon on the Mount,
could countenance Evolution until it threatened
image of its ■Maker./*-®
The Established Church of Virginia, characterized by
a liberalism-not often found in other Southern denominations,
had yet been bound by the adherence of many of its members to
tradition and a kind of evasive idealism.
Whether or not, in
such circumstances, it was to hold the younger generations in
the twentieth century was a question raised by Miss G-lasgow,
Ellen Glasgow, The Sheltered Life, p. 123.
Ellen Glasgow, The Romantic Comedians, p. 5*
16 Ibid., p. 203.
but left unanswered.
In the earlier part of the nineteenth century, while
the Episcopalians were chiefly concerned with both the spir­
itual and secular welfare of the upper class, and, through
them, the conduct of the affairs of the state, the ScotchIrish were pouring into the up-country, bringing with them
the inflexible preachments of Calvinism.
It is of such
Presbyterian pioneers and their descendants that Miss Glasgow
has treated in two of her finest novels, Barren Ground and
Ye in of Iron.
In no better way can the point of view of the
Presbyterian be brought out than in at least a brief scrutiny
of these two books.
John Abernathy, great-grandfather of Dorinda Oakley,
settled in Louisa County, and, by his evangelizing genius,
"the Presbyterian faith sprang up and blossomed like a Scotch
thistle in barren ground.wl7
John reared his granddaughter,
Eudora, sternly; and she, failing in her ambition to become a
missionary to the Congo, married her poor white neighbor and
devoted her life to unmitigated toil.
life was an unwavering Christian faith.
The lodestone of that,
Of Eudora, her
17 Ellen Glasgow, Barren Ground, p. 8.
daughter Dorinda said:
No matter how sick she is she never gives up, and
she never worries about anything smaller than eternal
damnation. . . . She never stops, not even on Sundays,
except when she is in church.13
Dorinda knew, too, that the only diversion in her mother's
existence was the increasingly rare visits .of ..the Gospel
riders, poor half-starved missionaries who,* in the eighteennineties, still drove their Gospel wagons through the back
country, nailing texts on trees and exhorting the inhabitants
to repentance.
No wonder the emotionally starved woman.had
once said to her daughter:
There ain't but one way to stand things. There
ain’t but one thing that keeps you going and keeps a
farm going, and that is religion. If you ain't got
religion to lean back on, you'd just as well give up
tryping to live in the country.!9
It was this unyielding devotion to her religion that
made Eudora*s reputation for rectitude and honesty a byword in
the countryside; and it was the violence-hone her Calvinist
conscience in lying to save her -son from prison that broke her
will and her heart.
Austere Presbyterian doctrine, however, did not have
the same appeal for Dorinda that it had possessed for her
Though Sunday had always been a day set apart in
Ibid., p. 14.
Ibid., pp. 103-4.
the family life, and though she had faithfully learned the
shorter catechism and the hymns, and had even experienced for
a short time the softly glowing ecstasy of the redeemed, she
had not found the abiding faith.
"Religion had not satisfied.”
But from these sturdy, God-fearing ancestors she did not in­
herit the integrity and the courage that enabled her to sur­
mount obstacles that would have overwhelmed a heart less forti­
of Iron is related the history of the Fincastle
family from the early eighteenth century to 1933.
Fincastle, the "Scholar Pioneer," had led his Scoteh-Irish
flock into a small valley of Appalachian Virginia, where "each
man would have room to bury his dead on his own land"; and
here the church and village of Ironside had been built.
mother Fincastle," wife of John III and herself the daughter of
a pioneer missionary in the mountain country, had stood as a
rock of faith and comfort in the countryside for two genera­
tions when her son John returned with his family to the old
For John, the most brilliant mind in the church, follow­
ing a trial by the Presbyterian fathers for heresy, had been
ejected from the brotherhood and deprived of his charge in
Grandmother, bearing the shock heroically, had as­
cribed her son's backsliding, his denial of the doctrine of
Ibid., p. 61.
predestination, not to new currents of thought abroad in the
eighteen-nineties, but to the influence of his studies in the
British Museum.
What of John at the Bay of Judgment, she
"Where would he stand among the reprobate angels
and men? . . . But it was God’s will, and so one must believe.
One must see with the eye of faith, not with the eye of
Not until the years of the Great War, in her very old
age, not until terrible trouble engulfed granddaughter Ada,
did the courageous woman waver and break under the crushing
knowledge of sin.
And Ada, with the weight of her grand­
mothers death upon her conscience and though lacking her
grandmother’s convictions, yet found within her very being
the "vein of iron” that stiffened her in adversity.
Both the
mystical John and the courageous Ada found support in the
heritage of a noble faither whose dogma, however, they could
not accept.
In the same novel is found the unhappy picture of Mrs.
McBride, whose "curdled Calvinism" caused her to destroy the
full integrity of her son’s spirit.
Through her too vigorous
application of discipline, the boy’s will had been weakened;
and later he was unable to defend himself against a forced
marriage with a girl who unjustly accused him.
In answer to
Ellen Glasgow, Vein of Iron, pp. 176-77.
the charge that she had broken her son's will when he was
little, toil-worn Mrs. McBride said: nAll I did was for his
He was a headstrong child, and he had to be disciplined.
He had to have Iris feet set in the right road.”
could be a'.bitter and a terrible thing, thought Ada, whom
Ralph really loved:
■ As a child she had known that Mrs. McBride en­
joyed punishing Ralph. Now she felt that the older
woman found a thrill of cruelty in the Christian
symbols of crucifixion and atonement. . . . She had
wished him to be hurt. . . . Something deep down in
her, perhaps an embittered love for his father, per­
haps the crying blood of persecutors, was gratified
when she thought that anyone, even her own child,
would be punished by God.23
In spite of, or perhaps because of, its severe tenets,
Presbyterianism became increasingly important in Virginia
throughout the nineteenth century.
The descendants of the
pioneers remained faithful to their church; and, though some,
like Cyrus Treadwell, the capitalist of Dinwiddie,
the Sunday sermon within the same category as the Sunday
roast, most communicants accepted the fundamental Westminster
confession of faith, with its atonement and predestination,
with the unquestioning loyalty of their fathers.
As its mem­
bers prospered, the Presbyterian church grew in influence,
Ibid., p. 240.
I M d . , pp. 239-40.
* Virginia.
retaining in the twentieth century its large following among
the Bourbons and the more cultured levels of the middle
The sturdy faith and the vigorous blood of its
founders contributed greatly to the life of the state in its
years of struggle.
What of that faith and blood in this age
of materialism and scepticism the novelist has left for the
future to determine.
The Presbyterian missionaries had worked faithfully
and successfully among the up-country farmers, educating them
in the unbending doctrine of the Shorter Catechism and intro­
ducing their more ambitious sons to the Greek and Latin
But to the Methodists and Baptists fell, for the
greater part, the task of carrying the torch of light to the
souls of the ignorant and indigent.„ Possessed of a greater
degree of proselyting.zeal than the Calvinists, these enthusi­
astic messengers penetrated to the remotest corners, bringing
spiritual salvation to the Negroes and to the poor on the
Often meagerly educated, these vigorous, powerful
* . . preached a narrow, straight-laced Old Testament
religion. . . . They believed in the verbal inspiration
Poteat, op. cit., p. 259.
Dodd, op. cit., p. 100.
of the Bible, and, so far as they could, they inter­
preted it literally, laying emphasis upon the future,
the rewards of the righteous, and the tortures of the
damned. '
Although most of their success lay in fields to the south,
many converts to their message were to be found in Tirginia.
In They Stooped to Folly, Ellen Glasgow drew her one
picture of a devout Methodist, a woman whose contemplation of
her religion had only deepened a natural melancholy.
Burden, mother of the modern, independent Milly, "though she
had lived the better part of three generations," had remained
"mentally arrested in the God-fearing posture of evangelical
Lamenting upon the waywardness of Milly, the respect­
able woman thus described the girl’s training:
She was always brought up as proper as proper. I
sent her to Sunday school as soon as she could lisp.
I took her with me to church and to missionary socie­
ties and prayer meetings whenever I had a decent dress
to put on her. Those were the only amusements she ever
had as a child, except sewing for one of the little
converts in Africa. She never ran out at night like
other girls, and it isn’t my fault if she found there
were wild sorts of pleasure. I declare, I don’t know
what the world is coming to now, but it isn’t as bad
of course as if I had any cause to reproach myself.28
Naturally, such a soured nature as Mrs. Burden's would be­
grudge to all her fellows the simple joys of earth in the
prospect of a future place of harps and halos.
Nor should the
Holland Thompson, The New South, p. 215.
They Stooped to Folly, p. 34.
reader overlook the unmistakable and characteristic flavor of
smug self-righteousness in her last sentence.
Yery different was the effect of evangelism upon the
literal, primitive mind of the Negroes, who were converted
in great numbers by the Methodists and Baptists, especially
after I865.
Although Miss Glasgow recorded little of the
Negroes' religious life, she set down a number of their songs
and occasionally mentioned the attendance of servants at camp
meetings or other services; and in The Yoice of the People was
included a delightful conversation illustrating the religious
ecstasy of the African nature.
"I'se monstrous glad I'se got religion," remarked a
strange little Negro woman. . . . "De Lawd He begun ter
git mighty pressin* last mont*, so I let *im have his
way. Blessed be de name er de Lawd! Is you a church
member, Sis Delphy?"
"Yes, Lawd, a full-breasted member."
The strange little woman faced them proudly. "My
husband, Silas, got religion in de night time, an' he
bruck clean thoo de slats. De bed ain't helt stiddy
The interplay of three different creeds upon the inhabi­
tants of a small rural community has been presented by the
novelist in The Miller of Old Church. Farly in the twentieth
After the Civil War, missionaries from both the
Northern and the Southern churches worked for the establish­
ment of separate congreations for the Negroes. See Fleming,
op. cit., p. 2 0 4 .
The Yoice of the People, pp. 274-75.
century, the arrival of faultlessly mediocre Mr. Mullen to
reopen the Episcopal church created a sensation among the
One fundamentalist Baptist was heard to sayi
He’s opened Old Church agin’, an* he works terrible
hard to make us feel that we’d rather be sprinkled on
the head than go under all over. A nice-mannered man
he is, with a pretty face, an’ some folks hold it to
be a pity that we can’t change our ideas about baptism
and become Episcopals in our hearts, just to oblige
him. The women have, mostly, . . . with the exception
of Mrs. Mallory, the blacksmith’s mother, who declares
she’d rather give up eternal damnation any day than
Old Adam Doolittle, obliged, in his infirmity, to forego the
Baptist service ten miles away, concluded his recital of a
Biblical encounter with the young rector by saying, ”H e ’s
at the age when a man knows everything on earth an’ generally
knows it wrong.
When Abel Revercomb began attending the Episcopal ser­
vice, his elderly neighbors could not understand how he could
recite the creed ”as loud as he used to sing the doxology”
when his family had been Presbyterians since ’’the time of
Neither could Sarah Revercomb, who objected to her
son's listening to the sermons of a clergyman who could not
even recite the first chapter of Chronicles.
And old grand­
father expressed his opinion of so decadent an age in vigorous
31 Ellen Glasgow, The Miller of Old Church, p. 9.
Loc. cit.
Why, they*re actually afeared to handle hell-fire
in the pulpit any longer. . . . *Twas different when
I was young an' in my vigour, for sech was the power
and logic of Parson Claymore*s sermons that he could
convict you of the unpardonable sin against the Holy
Ghost even when you hadn*t committed it.33
It was Sarah who in Calvinistic fervor attempted to
direct the destinies of her family and looked upon mirth and
lightness as sinful.
. . . the inflexible logic of Calvinism had passed
into her fibre until it had become almost an instinct
with her to tread softly in the way of pleasure lest
God should hear. 34If only his neighbors could have heeded the quiet
observatiQns of Reuben Merryweather, the petty tumult at
Old Church would have subsided more quickly and the zealous
partisans been free to attend to the welfare of their own
Said Reuben:
It ain*t never entered Sarah’s head that you can’t
fit the same religion to every man any mo* than you can
the same pair of breeches. . . . I ain’t as good a
Christian as my ma was— she could beat Sarah Revercomb
when it came to sayin* the Bible backwards— but I've
yet to see the spot of natur’, either human or clay, whar
we couldn't find the Lord at work if we was to dig deep
Virginia, like the rest of the South, has remained
definitely religious.
Ibid., p. 15.
Ibid., p. 290.
33 ibid., p. 216.
People still go to church, support church enter­
prises, make much of their ministers. They still
in the main submit readily to demagogy in the pulpit,
and enjoy the thrill of denominational competition.36
While differing in particular points of doctrine, the Southern
denominations are uniformly orthodox, entertaining even today
a zeal for sectional tradition and a distrust of Northern
liberalism so strong as to have hindered the healing of the
breach between the Northern and the Southern churches. ' In
the midst of a great economic and social transition, the
issue between fundamentalism and modernism must eventually be
And, in Miss Glasgow's opinion, one of the greatest
dangers to the region below the Potomac is that it ’’may sur­
render its intellectual attitude to the Fundamentalist point
of view.”38
The danger is, on the one hand, in the patrician's
complacence and his reverence for tradition; and, on the other
hand, in the proletarian’s fanatical zeal and narrowness.
one thinks too little about religion; the other, too much; and
both tend to play into the hands of an uncompromising funda­
36 Poteat, op. cit., p. 251.
37 This statement refers to the Protestant denomina­
tions, which predominate below the Potomac. Thus far, only
the Episcopal church has been reunited, although by May, 19399
the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Episco­
pal Church North had completed all but the final steps toward
fusion. According to Fleming {op. cdt., p. 23), the Southern
Jews and Catholics did not break with their northern affil­
iates during the Civil War.
36 virginius Dabney, "The South's Foremost Woman Nov­
elist," The Richmond Magazine, November, 1929, pp. 4.O-4.I.
Perhaps the solution lies in the hands of the younger
generation, the great majority of whom are "openly and
avowedly of the Centre Party, in the conflict between the
Fundamentalists and the M o d e r n i s t s . F o r they believe in
clinging to the Christian religion "as the foundation of
spiritual progress” and in "relating modern knowledge and
progress to the faith of the fathers."^
Mims, op. cit., p. 279
40 Ibid., p. 280.
The classes.
When the election of Lincoln to the
presidency of the United States convinced even the Yirginians
of the futility of further efforts to maintain peace, the
high-hearted patricians led in the struggle to maintain their
sacred social structure against all Northern encroachment.
For to them it was a social order nearing perfection, one
"in which every man should have a place and every man should
keep his peace."
There would he no poverty, they theorized,
when the system was completely evolved.
Nor would there he
"disagreement on the fundamentals of society, for sermons,
speeches, hooks, and teaching" would defend the existing order.
In this "aMost-perfect" concept were four levels of
society, the aristocrats, the middle class, the poor whites,
and the Negroes.
The highest and lowest levels were hound
closely together through the institution of slavery, whereas
the two intermediate groups went their quiet way with small
See Chapter I, p. 1.
2 William E. Dodd, The Cotton Kingdom, p. 146.
Loc. cit.
attention from the ruling gentry.
The middle class, by far the largest group in
Virginia, was composed at the top,of smaller planters,
substantial farmers, professional men, and tradesmen, and ,
at the bottom, of yeomen farmers, artisans, and mechanics.
While these planters and more prosperous farmers usually
owned slaves, the class as a whole was far less dependent
upon black labor than were the gentry.
Most of the mountain
farmers and the rural yeomen of the plains counties earned
their living by the toil of their own hands, and "in general
they lived on a level that was foreign to luxury and destitu£
tion alike."
The professional men and tradesmen, the arti­
sans and mechanics prospered in the towns and villages in
accordance with their own abilities and the opportunities
provided by circumstance and locality.
In the main, this
middle class was industrious and highly respectable, though
ranging from poor to well-to-do and from illiterate to well
It is difficult to distinguish sharply between the
poor whites and the ixiost backward members of the middle class.
A. N. J. Den Hollander, "The Tradition of the Poor
Whites," Culture in the South, p. 404.
Loc. cit.
Ibid., p. 406.
But usually present in this lowest white level were the in­
dolent hunter-fisher farmers, the plantation overseers, the
common white laborers of town and country.
At the end of the ante-bellum period this segregation
of groups was fairly well completed, and, as has been said,
was to remain intact through the dissemination of the doc­
trine of caste.
Small farmers continued as they were, if
they did not sell to the planters; for there was no oppor­
tunity to increase their holdings.
White labor played a
minor role; for the money staples were produced by the black
So it was that under the slave obligarchy the largest
white groups in Virginia had little part in the affairs of the
state and were almost as incapable of changing their status
as were the Negroes in bondage.
The gracious way of life.
In one novel only, The Battle-
Ground , did Miss Glasgow draw a detailed picture of ante-bellum
life in Yirginia, and that the life of the planter aristocrat.
Since the common people occupy a prominent place in her stories
of the succeeding decades, and since the social conditions of
these people altered very slowly, a discussion of this group
is deferred until a later section of this chapter*
It. was the gracious manner of life of the patrician
planter which, though submerged under the ruins of the social
structure he had so staunchly defended, was to become a sacred
legend among his descendants.
Typical of the proudest plantation manors was the home
of Major Lightfoot in The Battle-Ground.
Surrounded by ven­
erable elms that peaked the roof, the old house stood with
pillars reaching to the roof.
It was, indeed, very old, and
"built of brick that was brought all the way from England,
and over the fireplace in the panelled parlour" were the
Lightfoot arms.
Upon one white panel hung the portrait of
Great-aunt Emmeline, who had danced a minuet with General
Lafayette in that very room.
The stately chairs and sofas in
the parlor, the massive sideboard in the dining-room, and
the tall tester-beds in the rooms above the winding staircase
were of aged mahogany.
Throughout the house pervaded the
mellowed atmosphere of generations of proud and zestful
The planter’s family was seldom small.
There were
seven who gathered at the table at which Governor Ambler,
Major Lightfoot’s neighbor and friend, was the unvaryingly
perfect host.
Beside the master and the mistress and their
two daughters, were three elderly "kinfolk" who made their
home at the plantation after the accepted Southern custom.
Ho gentleman begrudged any member of the family the hospi­
tality of his roof,- and throughout the century few patrician
Ellen Glasgow, The Battle-Ground, pp. 28-29.
See Chapter I.
homes were without at least one female dependent of uncertain
Because of the isolation of the plantation, recreation
was largely a family or, at most, a neighborhood, affair.
times a gentleman took a pleasure trip to Washington or New
York or "Europe, and occasionally there were family visits to
the summer resort at White Sulphur Springs— so frequently
mentioned in Miss Glasgow*s stories.
Usually, however, the
more vigorous of the planter folk sought diversion in the
excitement of the fox-hunt, while all joined in the friendly
warmth and good cheer of holiday or other festivities.
It was for such an occasion on Christmas Eve in 1859
that the logs blazed in every room of Major Lightfoot*s
The boys had returned from the University, and they
and the Ambler girls had hung the walls with garlands of
evergreen and mistletoe and holly.
Toasts were proposed in
eggnog and apple toddy, the ladies partaking with delicacy
and the men with moderation; for no Virginia lady would wish
a gentleman to think that she had a real liking for strong
beverages, and no gentleman would appear even slightly in­
toxicated in the presence of a lady.
After a fea'st of turkey,
spiced beef, roast pig, and plum pudding, and an evening of
The Battle-Ground, pp. 81: f.
lively conversation and Virginia reels, the Amblers, young
and old, departed, as Christmas wishes mingled with the fall­
ing snow.
It was the last Christmas party at the old mansion.
The next year, the boys were not home during the holidays.
Then came the war.
After the war there were only— ashes.
The master of the ante-bellum plantation was gentleman
first and manager secondly.
If he were possessed of good
business talents and were fortunate in harvest and market, he
might add to his ancestral inheritance; if otherwise, his
holdings might become heavily mortgaged.
In any event, the
establishment must be run on a scale befitting the family’s
social position, and the master must never neglect his role
of gentleman.
The first perquisite of Virginia gentility was the pos­
session of family background and the inbred instincts for
courtesy and graceful living.
A man of the ’’first families"
was at home in any polite gathering, knew his Homer and Virgil
and loved to quote his favorite English author, v/hich, in
Major Lightfoot’s case, was Addison.
He was a master of ances­
tral anecdote and an artist in tribute to the ladies.
If he
were seriously inclined, the young patrician turned to law and
statecraft, with a view to the. governor’s chair or a seat in
Congress; or he might pursue the quiet joys of the scholar,
even to the translating of a literary classic like the Iliad.
p. 2^9.
Ellen Glasgow, The Builders, p. 212; The Deliverance,
Should the blood run more hotly in his veins,* he might more
nearly resemble Christopher Blake*s ancestors.
For more than two hundred years his people had been
gay and careless livers on this very soil; among them
all he knew of not one who had gone without the smallest
of his desires, nor of any who had permitted his left
hand to know what his right one cast away. Big, blithe,
mettlesome, they passed, . . .flushed with the pleasant
follies which had helped to sap the courage in their
descendants* veins,11
Major Lightfoot, too, was not deaf to the siren call of ad­
venture and chance, losing in one gambling game the new family
carriage and horses, and almost his coachman as well.
though a gentleman might, as was said of a distinguished Blake,
,ffish his necktie out of the punchbowl every Saturday night,”1^
he was generous, hospitable, chivalrous.
He never forgot for
long the broad connotations of noblesse oblige.
Upon the Virginia lady there also rested many responsi­
The master might live with a lavish disregard of the
morrow, not the master’s wife. For him were the open
house, the shining table, the well-stocked wine cellar
and the morning rides over the dewy fields; for her the
cares of her home and children, and of the souls and
bodies of the black people that had been given into her
hands. . . . She went her way humbly, her thoughts filled
with things so vital as the uses of her medicine chest
and the unexpounded mysteries of salvation.1^
The Deliverance, p, 203.
The Battle-Ground, p. 38 f.
13 The Deliverance, p. 112.
The Battle-Ground, p. 44 .
But in spite of the moral strength expected of her,
the ideal Southern lady was of fragile appearance, of appeal­
ing delicacy and refined manner, with soft voice and white,
flowerlike hands.
She looked to the men of her family for
support and protection and was taught to telieve that "women
do not need as much sense as men."
She accepted Saint Paul’s
pronouncement on women and reconciled herself to masculine
vagaries with the convenient phrase, "menwere different."
The patience and devotion of the perfect wife of the
old school are described in The Descendant.
She was, to a
nicety, a "pattern of modesty and meekness."
The husband
preferred to spend his evenings at the Red Cross Tavern,
where a lady was then residing who is nameless in polite
society. . . . But the virtuous old gentlewoman knew
her duty,
and, what is quite another thing, she per­
formed it to the best of her ability.15
She waited up
for his staggering steps, greeted him with a
wifely kiss, put him to bed, and mixed a nightcap with her
own aristocratic hands.
"Then she said her prayers, and
thanked the lord that Satan had not beguiled her from the path
of duty. Oh, that was a wife; worth having!"
Not all wives, however, were called upon to answer such
extreme demands of the "stern Daughter of the Yoice of God.”
Men like Governor Ambler, Major Lightfoot, and the father of
Ellen Glasgow, The Descendant, pp. 85-6.
L o c . cit.
Christopher Blake were of gentle manner and exemplary conduct
both at home and abroad.
The ideal of chivalry was a living
thing; and, so long as gentle ladies could adjust themselves
felicitously to its confinements and refinements, the family
hearth was destined to glow with a genial warmth.
The cultural life of the planters was circumscribed
by the exigencies of their isolation.
Though they welcomed .
theatrical performances, such treats were rare.
Those who
could afford the luxury, sat for portraits by well-known art18
ists like Be Yeaux
or Fraser, while others contended them­
selves with less ambitious likenesses for bequeathal to rever19
ing descendants. Some even dabbled in paints themselves,
and before i860, the somewhat more privileged residents of
Richmond saw the beginning of efforts at sculpture.
music was appreciated by all the aristocracy and was provided
in the homes whenever possible.
It was from reading, however, that the Yirginia planters
gained most of their culture.
Every gentleman had his library
Dodd says that the elder Booth made his .American
debut in Petersburg, Yirginia, in 1 8 2 1 . The Cotton Kingdom,
p. 82.
Loc. cit.
Kesiah in The Descendant; Littlepage's mother in
They Stopped to Folly.
Dodd, loc.cit.
with shelves of "classics bound in old English leather.11
Beside the ancient authors were law books, histories, and
standard English novels.
Johnson, Goldsmith, Shakespeare,
and Addison found an approved' place in nearly every home.
Campbell, Byron, Moore, Bulwer, Scott, and Thackeray were
among the favorites, superseded, perhaps in the more pious
households by the Book of the Martyrs, Milton, and Bunyan.
Upon the library table were the inevitable Richmond.,Enquirer
and the Southern Literary Messenger, and beside them fre­
quently Harper* s Magazine.
The’women, whose gentle souls must be protected from
the evil contagions of this world, found solace in the religious
volumes and caught what glimpses they could of a life outside
their own in time or place through the romance of Scott
the decorous novels of Edgeworth and Burney.
Many, like Mrs.
Lightfoot, read again and again the artifically seasoned
Gothic tales, The Mysteries of Udolpho and Thaddeus of Warsaw.
In every novel concerned with the Virginia gentleman
Miss Glasgow mentions the beloved library.
Grace W. Landrum,."Notes on the Reading of the Old
South," American Literature, 3:60-70, March, 1931. She says
that Campbell's brother lived in Richmond many years and that
Moore's poetry appeared in the Richmond Enquirer only less
often than the poems of the favorite, Mrs. Hemans. She also
states that Scott was a "best sellar," from the thirties to
the sixties, some editions being priced as low as $2.50 for
the entire set.
In the lB50's there appeared in the Southern Quarterly
Review protests against the cheap "licentious" fiction consumed
especially by the women and the middle classes. See Landrum,
'loc. cit.
The spinster, Miss Lydia Ambler,
had even dipped into Shakespeare and brought away
the memory of Mercutio; she had read Scott, and
enshrined in her pious heart the bold Rob Roy.2^
”Men are very wicked, I fear,” she would murmur,
”but they are very a-a-engaging, too.”25
What the Virginian aristocrat did and believed and
read in the decades just prior to i860 was of a significance
far beyond his capacity to realize.
For his habits and
ideals were to comprise that cultural and moral testament
which the next generation accepted unquestioningly as its
legacy to have and to hold for over half a century.
The life of bondage.
If he believed in the institu­
tion of slavery, the true gentleman as readily recognized its
claims upon himself.
As Mrs. Blake declared, a man’s first
duty was to his wife and children, and his second to his
Illustrative of the attitude of the better class
toward abusive treatment of the blacks are Lightfoot’s re­
marks to the brutal Rainy-Day Jones, whose desperate runaway
In another article, ’’Sir Walter Scott and His
Literary Rivals in the Old South,” American Literature,
2 : 2 5 6 - 7 6 , November, 1 9 3 0 , Miss Landrum states that Mark Twain
and certain others expressed the belief that the influence of
Scott in the South was pernicious, in that it built up
grandiose concepts of chivalry and the cherishing of false,
attenuated ideals of what was noble and honorable. Miss
Landrum herself thinks his influence was essentially for good,
giving the escape of romance and the glamor of a dream world
and celebrating the wholesome virtues.
The Battle-Ground, p. 47.
^be Descendant, p. 477.
slave the Major had rescued.
Said the fiery old warrior:
I ’ll have you whipped clean out of this county,
sir, and there’s not a gentleman in Yirginia that
wouldn’t lend a hand. . . . Here’s the price of your
property, and you can stoop in the dirt and pick it
up. There’s no man alive that shall question the
divine right of slavery in my presence; but— but it
is an institution for gentlemen, and you, sir, are
no gentleman.27
Upon the plantations, the Negroes lived in "the quar­
ters,” a small cabin with a fireplace allotted to each family.
The housework and cooking, and sometimes the simpler sewing,
were done by the women.
Small boys and girls, especially in
the larger households, served at table under the watchful eye
of that privileged character, the butler.
Other small boys
were employed in fanning away the flies while the diners were
fulfilling their pleasant duties both to the food and to the
gracious art of polite conversation.
At regular intervals the slaves were rationed clothes
and food (usually meat, molasses, and meal for pone and ashcakes); and often they raised pigs and chickens and garden
vegetables on their little plots of ground.
For recreation
and emotional release they engaged in coon hunting, cock­
fights, religious services, and their characteristic songs
and dances.
The Yirginia master and mistress of quality ob­
served the custom of remembering every slave with a gift at
The Battle-G-round, p. 78.
Christmas time and upon other occasions of unusual moment,
and never did they wilfully neglect to administer personal
comfort in time of sickness or trouble.
Such a paternalism
kept the Negroes childishly dependent and, under a benign owner,
childishly happy.
Most fortunate of all was: the personal servant whose
Sevotion was repaid by affection and special privileges.
Governor Ambler*s Shadrach enjoyed his master’s confidence,
assumed his manner, and wore his older clothes.
He was so much like his master— commanding port,
elaborate shirt-front, and high collar— that the Major,
in a moment of merrymaking, had once dubbed him "the
Governor’s silhouette. ,,29
Even more beloved was the motherly Mammy Riah, nurse to the
Ambler girls and prototype of many whose unselfish souls were
poured out in the unstinted service of another race.
and superior, these personal servants looked down upon the
lowly workers in the fields and were content.
But soon the tramp of hostile marchers broke the com­
placent quiet of the countryside, bringing suffering and want
to master and slave alike.
Invading thunder shook the founda­
tions of the structure that had both imprisoned and supported
The information contained in the two paragraphs
above was gleaned by bits from The Battle-Ground, The Voice
of the People, and The Sheltered Life, and is verified by
statements from Dodd, op. c_it., pp. 72-76.
The Battle-Ground t p. 21.
the black people,
and set them free.
S h a d r a c h a n d Riah, ..the
field worker, the b e a t e n drudge and the cowe r i n g runaway, all
ha d placed in the i r hands the priceless gift of f r e e d o m — to
Cherish as best t h e y might.
T h e y were hands p i t i f u l l y u n p r e ­
pared for the task*
With the collapse of slavery and the Confederacy,
economic barriers were down.
But the social fences still
When Ban Lightfoot, the aristocrat, parted from Pine-
top, his mountaineer comrade, after the surrender at Appomattox,
it was Pinetop who first recognised the old class imperatives
pulling them apart, "I reckon you’ll go yo’ way an’ I ’ll go
mine,” he said, ’’for thar’s one thing sartin an’ that is our
ways don’t run together,”
It was true.
And for more than
half a century the conflicting interests and ideals of the
upper and the lower classes were to muddy and trouble the
waters of Virginia life.
After the wreckage which followed Appomattox, it
was natural that the futility of the Southern outlook
should be balanced by an effort to glorify the era
which had preceded Manassas. . . . Defeated on the
actual ramparts of Virginia, the South retired to the
ramparts of the mind. Here the glories of the Old
South became an impregnable castle over which was
flown the invincible banner of "the Lost Cause."31
Ibid., p. 424.
Clarence E. Cason, "Middle Class and Bourbon,"
Culture in the South. p. 493.
This quotation from the pen of a modern Southern writer ad­
mirably describes the background against which Ellen Glasgow
has sketched the social conflicts rife in Virginia from I865
to 1915•
In the novels covering this period
the author has
dealt sympathetically yet honestly with the interactions of
antagonistic points of view: class against class, action
against apathy, materialism against idealism, the present
against the past, reality against illusion.
In each book she
has depicted one or another phase of the struggle of the aris­
tocrat to adjust himself to a changing order and at the same
time preserve inviolate those revered traditions which often
were all that remained to him out of the past.
Poverty and family pride.
When misfortune descended
upon a patrician family and swept away their possessions,
they took courage in the sustaining consciousness of their
superior breeding.
Eager to preserve all possible ties with
their illustrious.forebears, these victims of the economic
whirlwind salvaged from the wreckage, if possible, some tangi­
ble reminders of intimate family life— grandmother’s silver or
the old blue china, or perhaps a few odd bits of time-honored
jewelry or the best-loved books from the library.
At all costs,
The Deliverance; The Ancient Law; The Romance of a
Plain Man; The Miller of Old Church; Virginia; Life and
Gabriella; The Voice of the People.
however, the ancestral portraits must be saved from the dese­
crating hands of strangers, to hang, like household gods,
upon the shabby wall and impart an air of dignity to the
poverty below.
They were the visible symbol of the pride
and luster of days departed.
The disinherited Blakes'par­
took of eornbread and bacon at a plain pine table set with
cracked plates and cups without handles, and overworked
Cynthia had the appearance and the rough red hands of a com­
mon farm woman; but the portraits in the poor little parlor-’
gave proof of the courage and the quality of the- dwellers in
the house.
Cynthia could endure the trial of soliciting
sewing from her acquaintances of better days.
It was the
pretty little sister* s marriage to the son of a former la­
borer on her father’s estate, that breaking with the family
tradition through the circumstance of poverty, that caused
her spirit to suffer torment.
Others of the—gentility were more fortunate than the
Blakes in that -their poverty was not so extreme as to thrust
them down into another level of society.
Even with these,
however, the keeping up of an appearance was a constant
Of one proud woman Miss Glasgow wrote:
Mrs. James Dudley Webb'was a lady who supported an
impossible present upon an important past. She had
once been heard to remark that if she had not something
to look back upon she could not live. . . . The lines of
her present had fallen in a white frame house in the
main street of Kingsborough; those of her past began
with the first Dudley who swung a lance in Merry England,
to end with the irascible old William of the name who
slept in the family graveyard upon the James River.33
The widow of a young gallant killed in the war, Mrs. Webb
rented rooms to student-boarders.
"But her pride was never
lowered and her crepe was never laid aside," though "she
sat up late into the night to darn the sleeves of her black
silk gown." ^
And she served the young men'at her table from
the elegant silver urn in as perfect a manner as its original
owner had entertained a nobleman.
Such as these found the retention of the last fading
evidences of a distinguished descent the chief aim in life.
In The Romance of a Plain Man, a realty agent told of
an aristocratic, though poverty-stricken, maiden lady,
who was starving * . . in the midst of some rare pieces
of old Chippendale furniture and with the picture of an
English ancestress by Gainsborough hanging above her
fireless hearth.35
And there were two elderly spinsters, bearing the lordly,
though fallen, name of Peterborough, who sometimes dropped in
to see their neighbor, Mrs. Carr, just before supper was
ready, ■
and then they would pretend that they lived on tea
and toast because they were naturally "light eaters,"
and that they sewed all day, not for money, but be­
cause they liked to have "something to do with their
The Voice of the Peoplet p. 111.
34 Ifrid. , p. 113.
E l l e n Glasgow, The Romance of a P l a i n Man, p. 335.
Ellen Glasgow, Life and Gabriella, p. 13.
In their rooms upstairs the walls were covered with family
portraits of the colonial period.' Incapable of finding es­
cape, these poor old gentlewomen continued in the only way
they knew, sustained by pride and pretense.
The impact of materialism.
The intrusion of industry
and commerce into an agrarian society was the outstanding
material phenomenon in the life of Virginia after 1865.
So significant were the varied reactions of the gentility to
this new factor in the Virginia economy that Miss Glasgow
gave them much space in her record of the period.
In general,
the younger men, with only faint memories of a life of gra­
cious ease, accepted the situation and turned to business and
the professions as the most promising means of making a liv­
For those who had grown to maturity under a regime in
which a gentleman refrained from selling his services in a
and from direct contact with trade, the conflict
with trade, the conflict between necessity and tradition some­
times became a dilemma.
Among the first of those older gentlemen who succeeded
in adjusting themselves to the industrial pressure was General
Bolingbroke, son of an aristocratic planter and president of
The rise of industry is treated in Section II of
Chapter II.
The clergy were a universal exception.
a railroad in the eighteen-eighties.
Perhaps the enthusi­
asm with which he applied himself to business activity was
enhanced by the pleasure of ”out-Yankeeing” the Yankees dur­
ing the Reconstruction years.
At any rate, he emerged from
that struggle with his pockets full and his.patrician sensi­
bilities intact.
Nor had he forgotten the old life.
”1 was
brought up in a different civilization,” he said in later
”It’s funny how many.customs were swept away with the
institution of slavery.”
-He possessed the rare faculty of
being able to look both ways.
Beverly Brooke,
on the other hand, was^ the kind of
patrician of whom it was said, ”An aristocrat is a man who
sits down to think about what his grandfather has done while
other men are doing something themselves.”
So imbued was
he with the importance of his lineage that he considered his
own incompetence the mark of a gentleman.
Starting with a
fair fortune, Beverly had lost everything in foolish specula­
tions except the farm and the old, decaying house, which were
Other characters .in the Glasgow novels who react
to the industrial trend~are: Tom Bassett, George Battle (The
Voice of the People); Richard and Daniel Ordway (The Ancient
Law); George Bolingbroke (The Romance of a Plain Man); Jimmy
Wrenn, Charles Tracey (Life and GabriellaT.
The Romance of a Plain Man, p. 214.
The Ancient Law.
The scene is laid m
Words of Michael, in The Descendant, p. 43.
submerged under mortgages.
He did not demean himself with
work, even to spade in the garden; and his careless manage­
ment of the tobacco crop rendered it unfit for sale.
coming back to the farm, Beverly and his family had lived in
town, where the ex-soldier, lured by the new commercialism,
had followed his wild schemes of wealth, not realizing that
breeding alone was no equivalent for business acumen.
So he
nursed his "chronic ailment" on the porch of the old house,
courteous but apathetic, retelling ancestral anecdotes, a
failure in the eyes of progress, yet still a gentleman in his
own right.
Illustrative of the ease with which some of the younger
men of gentle birth embraced the new ideas of the times was
John Henry Pendleton, who, from his lowly task of selling
bathtubs, looked with approval upon the success of the un43
scrupulous Cyrus Treadwell.
Like some Southerners who had been forced without
preparation into the hard school of industry, he found
that his standards followed inevitably the changing
measure of his circumstances. From his altered point
of view, the part of owning property appeared so easy,
and the part of winning it so difficult, that his
respect for culture had yielded to his admiration for
commerce. . . . John Henry Pendleton, who after nineteen
years of poverty and memory, was bereft alike of classi­
cal pedantry and of physical comfort, had grown a little
weary of the endless lip-homage to a single moment in
history. . . . When your bread and meat depend not upon
this paper.
Treadwell is discussed in Chapter II of
the graves you decorated, but upon the bathtubs you
sold, surely something could be said for the Treadwell
point of view. 44
"It was beyond his comprehension that a Pendleton could have
reason to blush for a bathtub, or any other object that af­
forded him an honest livelihood."
John Henry was born a
gentleman, and no trafficking in' objects of trade could steal
that birthright from him.
The revolt against chivalry.
Even those Virginia
gentlemen who entertained liberal views in regard to indus­
trialism were as strictly conservative as their grandfathers
in their protective attitude toward women of their families.
With General Bolingbroke they believed that a Virginia lady
was "content to be what the Lord and the men intended her."
Some of Miss Glasgow1s most interesting portrayals
have been those of aristocratic women in their reactions,
during the decades of transition, toward the old Southern
code of chivalry.
There were many, like Mrs. Carr and Mrs.
Pendleton, who accepted its edicts without question.
Carr, conventional, incompetent, in her widowhood clung to
the belief that masculine relatives were providers and "even
a bad marriage" was "better for a woman than no marriage at
Ibid., PP. 58-59.
1*ke Romance of a Plain Man, p. 215.
Life and Gabriella, p. 58.
Mrs. Pendleton, who, in her effort to "take a true
view of life,” had developed an incapacity for "looking an
unpleasant fact in the face* if there were any honourable
way of avoiding it,"
U1 held to the old ehivalrie ideal of a
She said it to her daughter, Virginia, just before
the girl’s marriage:
Remember, we have always taught you that a woman’s
strength lies in her gentleness. His will must be
yours now, and wherever your ideas cross, it is your
duty to give up, darling. It is the woman's part to
sacrifice herself.4-°
And Virginia, "The flower of the Victorian ideal,”
with the inordinate sense of duty, sacrificed herself for her
husband and her children.
"As a wife, Virginia was perfect;
as a mental companion, she barely existed at all."
women were not expected to be thinkers had ever been the
pronouncement of her maseuline world.
It was not long be­
fore her family and the hurrying age had left her behind and
alone, with nothing but resignation and emptiness.
On the other hand, there were some Virginia ladies
who began to seek relief from the restrictions of a moribund
Miss Kesiah Gay had wanted to go to Paris to study
art, but her desires were aborted by the male prerogative in
Virginia, p. 60.
Ibid., p. 181.
49 I b i d ., p. 279.
the settling of moral issues.
"Of course it was out of the
question that a Virginia lady should go off hy herself and
paint perfectly nude people in a foreign city."
Elderly Miss Matoaca, delicate spinster of the aris­
tocracy, sought'an interest in life by championing the cause
* of woman's suffrage, reading political articles, and actually
marching in a suffragette parade, much of the chagrin of her
highly conventional sister.
A pathetic contradiction, "Miss
Matoaca, who worked for the emancipation of women," was her­
self "the slave of an ancestry of men who oppressed women,
and of women who loved oppression."
In Life and Gabriella the novelist has told the story
of the daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family in
complete revolt against the acknowledged standards set for
the proper conduct of a lady.
Tired of being dependent on
the charity of relatives simply because of their sex, Gabriella
Carr (whose mother is mentioned above) sought to work at a dry­
goods store in her native Richmond.
And in so doing she sub­
jected her mother to the dual martyrdom of resignation "to
disgrace as well as poverty."
Gabriella did well at the store, learning much that
The Miller of Old Church, p. 75.
The Romance of a Plain Man, p. 206.
life and Gabriella. p. 7S.
made success possible in New York City in later years.
became acquainted with the other saleswomen.
Most of them
were of the middle class, although there was one in particu­
lar who was still the perfect lady and had not lost her
"shrinking manner."
But Gabriella was more interested in
maintaining her independence than in being the life copy of
an ancestral portrait, no matter how genuine.
The years brought Gabriella children, a broken love,
hard work, but eventual success.
In divorce she broke the
last bonds that had held her to the rigid code of a dead
The past was over, and only that part of it should
live which contributed sweetness and beauty to the
present---only that part of it which she could use in
the better and stronger structure of the future.
IfVhatever living meant in the end? she told herself,
. . . it must mean, not resignation, not inertia,
but endeavor, enterprise, and courage.
So thought Gabriella, and, through her, so spoke Ellen Glasgow
to the women of her state, as late as the year 1913.
The insistence of the class pattern.- Yet, in the
midst of all these sincere (and often quixotic) gestures
toward freedom for self-expression, the inviolability of
class was never seriously questioned.
Those of the first fami-
-lies might of necessity mingle daily with common tradesmen,
Ibid., p. 299.
Date of publication of Life and Gabriella.
but within their own closed circle they subscribed to the
pattern of their golden age.
In general, their manners, their
recreations, and their tastes in literature and art fell along
the same lines as in ante-bellum days.
Typical of the finer old Richmond houses was the old \
gray house, with its pillars and broad steps, in which lived
the two elderly Bland sisters.
In the drawing-room, with its
high brass andirons and quaint tapestried furni-ture and whitepainted woodwork, hung the "portraits of departed Blands and
Fairfaxes that smiled gravely down with averted eyes."
over the fireplace was a likeness of the two sisters "painted
in fancy dress, with clasped hands, under a garland of
r o s e s .
It was in this room that Miss Mitty Bland and Miss
Matoaca, in- their black gowns and dainty lace caps, held the
defenses against the intrusion of a commoner into the sacred
circle of the Fairfaxes and the Blands.
When Sally, their niece, announced her intention of
marrying Ben Starr, the poor common boy who had risen, they
resisted with all their might.
Miss Mitty remonstrated:
There is some mistake. . . . Not that I doubt for
a minute that you are an estimable and deserving
character. . . . But Sally marry youI Why, your
father was not even an educated man.56
The Romance of a Plain Man, p. 186. This is Miss
Glasgow's own home in Richmond. She makes use of it also in
The Voice of the People.
56 Ifcid., pp. 200 -201 .
Mb; but even an education and good character were not
As Miss Matoaca expressed it:
I do not think that even a good character can
atone for the absence of family inheritance— of the 57
qualities which come from refined birth and breeding.
To be sure, the two gentle sisters were doomed to de­
Yet others have persisted, down to-the present, in the
valiant endeavor to defend "the edifice of their beliefs and
traditions, reared so patiently through the c e n t u r i e s " ^
against the assaults of an encroaching commonality.
The abolition of slavery, which levelled the economic
barriers against the poorer classes, broke down also, to some
extent, the barriers against social ambition.
For half a century after Appomattox, individuals were
able to climb into a higher class, but the change in the
social status of the whole group was a slow one.
The middle class.
Of the middle class characters t
treated by Ellen Glasgow, only one, Cyrus Treadwell, already
on the fringe of the aristocracy through marriage, became an
Ibid., p. 202. Paradoxically enough this is the
Miss Matoaca who afforded a useful illustration in the pre­
ceding section of the insurgent woman.
I b i d . , p. 200.
influential Bourbon.
His rise, however, was to power through
amassed wealth; his private life neither contributed to nor
was improved by his enhanced position.
The bona fide aris­
tocrats of the old school were loath to accept his kind.
Of the yeoman farmers Miss Glasgow has written in
Barren Ground.
These agrarians dwelt in reasonably com­
fortable homes, prospering according to crop conditions and
their own efforts.
their tastes.
Their style of living was simple, like
Not great readers of books, as a rule, they
enjoyed newspapers and periodicals -when they could afford
The women*s days were filled with cooking, housekeep­
ing, churning, and the care of the poultry, with church ac­
tivities their only diversion.
Besides the church sociabil­
ity, the young people enjoyed dances, except in very strict
Farmers by heredity, they seldom migrated to
the towns except under stress of necessity.
Through the
latter part of the nineteenth century, however, their stub­
born efforts in politics forced the Bourbons to provide bet­
ter schools and improved transportation facilities in the
rural communities.
Typical of the middle class of the eighteen-nineties
were several of the residents of Tappahannock, described in
The Ancient Law.
Mr. Trend, grasping owner of the cotton
This subject is discussed rather fully in Chapter
mill, was a product of the new industrial growth.
It was said
of him that he cared for no one but his spoiled and pretty
daughter, and that he owned the saloons at which his employees
spent their earnings on Saturday nights.
A Philistine in na­
ture and materialistic, he begrudged taxes for the school or .
for any other civic enterprise and attempted to control the
votes of his'workers.
Mr. Baxter, on the other hand, was a true son of the
old-time tobacco dealer.
As generous as he was huge, and just
as honest, he managed his warehouse in that easy-going manner
that so often belies capability.
With no pretensions to cul­
ture, he nevertheless made himself a public-spirited member
of the community.
The belle of- the town, Milly Trend, had her pretty
head full of romance.
She had read Longfellow and Lucille
and Bulwer’s novels and lent her mind to fascinating adven­
tures instead of currant jelly and a Sunday school class.
She was very middle class; she would never be otherwise.
At the end of Milly1s street stood the boarding house
presided over by Mrs. Twine.
She was coarse and shrewish,
with an anxious forehead and work-worn'hands.
Calvinism, cleanliness, and a drinking husband on the. one
hand, and daily household tasks on the other, she had little
time for the amenities of life for which her nature instinc­
tively longed.
If such as these, the patrician might have reflected,
are representative of the heart of the great middle class,
where will this flaunted new democracy lead?
The poor whites.
Even more deplorable than the picture
of the middle class was that presented by that nearly desti­
tute group known as the poor whites.'
In spite of their al­
most pure Anglo-Saxon origin, they had endured without re­
sentment the evils of free competitive slave labor, as Miss
Glasgow has shown in both The Voice of the People and The
Miller of Old Church.
continuous abrasions of misfortune
upon his spirit gradually developed in him a stultifying -In­
ertia, a kind of spiritual anemia, comparable to the physical
anemia which all too often he suffered from want of a wellbalanced diet or a knowledge of the fundamentals of health.
Only very slowly did improving economic and social conditions
win him back to a new hope and self-respect.
Whether farmer or tenant, the average rural poor white
lived in a poorly-kept, overcrowded house set amidst strag­
gling fields.
The yard, if a typical one, was an indiscrimi­
nate assemblage of chicken coops, weeds, wood-chips, and lean
His clothes and furniture were of the poorest; and
his fare consisted of cornbread, buckwheat cakes, molasses,
and "middlin," varied with turnip greens, "snaps" and other
vegetables if the family were energetic enough to cultivate
a truck patch.
If the poor-white farmer worked hard (many of
them did), his wife worked harder (most of them did).
Marthy Burr said to young Nicholas one evening:
Here I ’ve been standin* at the tub from-sunrise to
sunset with my jaw a ’most splittin’ from my face, an’
thar’s yo* pa a-settin’ at his pipe as unconsarned as
if I wa'nt his lawful wife— more’s the pity! It’s the
lawful wives as have the work to do, an’ the lawfuller
the wives the lawfuller the work.°0
That this masculine indifference to the weight of the women’s
burdens was not an unusual one, the author has shown by the
self-revealing words of a member of the younger generation.
When Jim Halloween wished to interest Molly Merryweather in
the Question of matrimony, he began in this fashion:
Well, I never axed much, bein’ so unattractive to
the sex, an’ as long as a woman was handsome, with a
full figger, an’ sweet tempered an' thrifty an’ a
good cook, with a sure hand for pastry, an’ al’ays
tidy, with her hair curlin’ naturally, an’ neat an*
fresh without earin’ about dresss, I ’d have been
easy to please with just the things any man might
have a right to expect.
For recreation these poor folk, like the more prosper­
ous farmers, might avail themselves of church sociables,
hunting, an occasional frolic, or the solace of
the "ordinary1* at the crossroads.
As for books, they had the
big family Bible and that was usually all.
But even, a "library"
of one book was of no avail for the many who had never picked
up the rudiments of reading in one of the scattered schoolhouses
The Voice of the People, p. 95.
The Miller of Old C h u r c h , p. 390.
of the region.
Life for the very poor in the towns differed little
from that in the country.
The houses were certainly closer
together and tin cans and other rubbish perhaps took the
place of chicken coops.
Existence was just as meager, and
the opportunities for mental stimulation or improvement just
as scant.
For the carnal minded there were saloons and
dances, and
was an occasional ’’funeral or other sober kind of entertain­
The novelist has presented in her books two particu­
larly interesting characters in Ben Starr and Abel Revercomb,
who serve as examples of the rise of the individual poor
Ben Starr, whose story is related in Chapter II of
this discussion,.rose to prominence through initiative and
phenomenal business success.
His marriage to aristocratic
Sally Mickleborough was a forecast of the general improvement
of his class a few decades hence.
With Ben’s education and
sterling sense, and Sally's courage and breeding, this un­
usual match was successful beyond the average.
And yet this
precipitate union of the lowest and the highest levels of
society was not without its drawbacks.
As Ben later said:
I knew also that the external graces which I treated
with scorn because I lacked them, held for her the charm
The Romance of a Plain Man.
of habit, of association of racial memory. . . . The
lightness of life taught me nothing except that I
was built in mind and body on a heavier p l a n . 63.
Abel Revercomb’s is an isolated case of the inferior
rural type climbing rapidly into the middle class.
More en­
ergetic than his fellows, he demonstrated the first eager
release from the traditional repression of his class.
Impulsive, generous, undisciplined, he repre­
sented . . . the reaction from the spirit of racial
submission. . . . Abel was conscious only of his
liberated intelligence— of a passionate desire to
test to the fullest the certainty of that libera­
tion. 64In his case, also, perhaps the economic change and the result­
ant prominence of the man were too rapi-d to insure his proper
adjustment to the political life to which he aspired.
But at
least he pointed the way for other ambitious ones who, in
another generation, would make manifest the proposition that
democracy is not only of and by, but for all the people, in­
cluding the Starrs and the Revereombs.
The Negroes.
Perhaps most pathetic because most dif­
ficult of all the readjustments which Reconstruction days
demanded of those who lived south of the Mason and Dixon line
was that of the Negro.
He had been told by so-called friends
from the North of a panacea called Freedom that would speil
Ibid., p. 62.
The Miller of Old Church, p. 47. Revercomb*s
economic rise is discussed in Chapter II, Section I.
release f r o m all h i s troubles,
eve n fr o m labor itself.
p r o v e d too h e a d y a draught f or one w h o h a d n e v e r indulged
S o o n the S o uth e r n w h i t e s w e r e again in the saddle,
a n d h e f o u n d h i m s e l f in the parlous situ a t i o n of h a v i n g
n e ither the sec u r i t y of the slave no r the self-reliance of
a freeman.
M a n y N e g r o e s stayed u p o n the land,
borers or tenants;
a f e w became f a r m owners,
b e c o m i n g la ­
living in m u c h
the same m a n n e r as thei r p o o r e r white neighbors.
sought o c c u p a t i o n in the
still others m i g r a t e d n o r t h ­
Given a reasonable chance,
the Negr o e s wer e s u p r i s i n g l y
adaptable to n e w conditions a n d d i s p l a y e d a remarkable f a c u l t y
for getting the m o s t out of the lit t l e that life o f t e n a f ­
But t h e y we r e i n c l i n e d to la c k foresight;
g ood-natured fatalism,
and a
coupled w i t h poor educat i o n a l o p p o r ­
of course m a d e their advan c e m e n t slow a n d uncertain.
T h o u g h the old-time Neg r o w a s still m u c h in evidence
at the close of the n i n e t e e n t h century, the p r e s e n c e of the
"new Negro" became more appa r e n t f r o m that tim e on.
r oot e d in the old order,
To those
the shif t i n g of alignments, bla c k
a n d white, w a s m o s t distasteful.
Betw e e n the Negro of the
old school and the poor w h i t e there g r e w up a d eep-seated
anti p a t h y and distrust.
A s U n c l e Ish, one of the a u t h o r ’s
f e w individualized Neg r o characters,
D a r ain' no m a n n e r s dese days, nohow. . . . De
n i g g e r s — dey is gwine p l u m o u t e r de y 'ads, en de po'
w h ite trash gwine p l u m out e r dey places. . . . Dar
ain’t nobody lef’ ter keep ’em ter dey places no
The new Negro, as a type, was to be found most fre­
quently in the towns.
Occasionally he resented openly the
discriminations of color; but more frequently he was an' ’’in­
dustrious, intelligent Negro who ordered his conduct along
the same lines as the white man.”
He found employment
most frequently as porter, barber, house-servant, caterer,
teamster, or common laborer; a few of the more fortunate be­
came nurses, doctors, or teachers.
But everywhere the color
line was as sharply drawn in business as elsewhere.
In passing it is worth noting that the Negro in
'Virginia was, on the whole, more intelligent and was treated
with more consideration than elsewhere in the South.
infrequency of lynching within its borders is significant.
But social discrimination was rigid.
Segregation in schools,
street cars, and living quarters (for which the Negroes were
forced to pay inordinately high prices) was the unbroken law.
The Negro, however, was not without friends, especially
among the aristocrats.
These often continued to look after
the former "servants” of the family, as in the case of
The Voice of the People, p. 28.
Holland Thompson, The New South, p. 142.
Douglas Freeman, ’’Virginia, a Gentle Dominion,”
The Nation, 119:68-71, June 16, 1924.
Memoria, a "superior" Negress, who was sent to school by the
And it was the aristocratic element which most
favored the efforts of the General Education Board
other agencies in the first three decades of the present cen­
tury to provide the race with more adequate schooling, pari
ticularly of a vocational kind.
Thus., did the traditional
responsibility of the master find belated and partial ex­
pression in the sporadic ministrations of his sons and grand­
It might be implied that the moral example of the de­
feated, and yet eternally undefeated, Confederate helped the
black race to make notable progress under extremely unfavor­
able conditions, and to show "amazing fortitude and selfcontrol in the face of the repeated insult and injury and con70
tinned adversity."
For the Negro the upward surge has meant
a degree of improvement, but not the freedom of opportunity
and self-expression of which he had dared to dream.
Five out of Ellen Glasgow* s six latest novels have
.presented life in Richmond from the. time of the Great War to
Ellen Glasgow, The Sheltered Life.
Edwin Mines, The Advancing South, p. 264-.
W. T. Couch, "The Negro in the South," Culture in
the South, p. 476.
that of the " d e p r e s s i o n ” of 1929-32.
of these five
A thoughtful perusal
(One M a n in His T i m e , The Roman t i c C o m e d i a n s ,
T h e y Stooped to F o l l y , The S h e l t e r e d L i f e , and V e i n of I r o n )
gives the r e a d e r the sense of a . n e w set o f v a l u e s in society,
n e w attitudes,
a c h ange d milieu.
He faces the b e g i n n i n g of
a n e w regime in V i r g i n i a social life*
It is, of course,
t r u i s m that'life and thought in A m e r i c a wer e p r o f o u n d l y ' a f ­
f e cted by the Great W a r a nd its consequences;
but these
novels f u rnish her o w n parti c u l a r fictive c o m m e n t a r y on the
character of these changes.
stand o u t against the
Two m a j o r phenomena of the times
s k y in these recent books. The
the rise of a m a t e r i a l i s t i c c o n c e p t i o n of
living; the
one is
the p r o m i s e o f a greater sense of social r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and
a m e r g i n g of the best
i n the aristocratic and the democratic
ideals of thought and conduct.
The m a t e r i a l i s t i c w a y of l i f e .
b e e n o n the m a r c h for decades,
Materialism, w h i c h h a d
quick e n e d its step at the beat
of the w a r drums of 1 9 1 4 a n d t o o k p o s s e s s i o n e s p e c i a l l y of
t o w n and city life at the cre s t of the w a v e o f p r o s p e r i t y
d u ring the nineteen-twenties.
E v i d e n c e s of its presence were
in the squa r e - f r o n t e d factories an d the ugly,
nak e d apartment houses a n d o v e r c r o w d e d slums,
in the glare of
The exception, B a r r e n G r o u n d , c o n c e r n e d w i t h rural
life and i n no w a y tou c h i n g u p o n the social changes t h e r e ­
after, is d i scussed in C h a p t e r II, S e c t i o n I.
electricity and the hum of wheels and the endless monotony
of concrete pavements*
Mediocrity and uniformity were
scrawled large across the life of the people.
In the humbler residential sections, the new materi­
alism showed its most forbidding front.
For in the vaunted
prosperity of those years, the very poor had little part.
Not only were their dwellings indescribably dismal, but the
rents they paid were exorbitant.
higher rent,
The higher wages meant
landlords had caught the general infection of
money-getting at other people’s expense.
In One Man in His
Time, Mr. Harrow, the carpenter, said of the ’’rows of narrow
old-fashioned tenement houses standing, like crumbling walls
of red brick, behind sagging wooden fences”:
The cost of repairing them would be so great that
the agent is deliberately letting the property run
down in the hope that this part of the street will
soon be turned over to the Negroes. The Negroes are
so crowded in their quarters that they are obliged to
expand, and when they do, this investment will yield
still higher interest. Coloured tenants stand crowd­
ing better than white ones, and they will pay a better
rent for worse housing. . . . Mighty funny— ain’t it?—
the way we let children just a few squares away from us
grow up pinched, half-starved, undersized, uneducated,
and as little moral as the gutters can make ’em.73
The middle class found in this materialism an ally in
their quest for greater security and a more comfortable mode
of life.
Lace curtains and phonographs and visits to the
Ellen Glasgow, One Man in His Time, p. 57.
Ibid., pp. 185, 186.
motion-picture. house were commonplaces.
All but one depart­
ment store in the town, Shadwell's, had passed into the hands
of aggressive commoners.
And so largely did these com­
moners dominate the construction business and local politics
that patrician Judge Honeywell, in viewing the public park
with its "plebeian concrete walks and triangular beds of
canna," wondered just what "was the peculiar merit of the
middlerdass mind" and "in what particular was the tyranny
of the inferior an advance upon the tyranny of the superior."
It was to the effects of this new "era of progress"
upon the"first families," however, that Miss Glasgow devoted
the larger share of attention in her later stories.
The old
collision of the past against the present, evasion against
reality, continued.
The sanctity of the aristocratic tradi­
tion was becoming inevitably untenable; wealth and influence
were to be more and more the touchstones of success.
war, with its democratizing influence and its disillusionment,
hastened the crumbling of the citadel of gentility.
As the
free-lance Marmaduke Littlepage said to his conservative
brother, Virginias:
You may find that the Great War has demolished you
and your last scarecrow of aristocratic tradition. A
Vein of Iron, p. 387.
fke Sheltered Life, p. 11.
class w i t h o u t tradition, but w i t h a p l e b e i a n appetite
for corn, is a l r e a d y swarming ove r your field.7o
And what t h e w a r h a d f a i l e d to dislodge,
the feverish years
of m a m m o n i s m that f ollo w e d b i d f a i r to accomplish.
In the
home of the r e f i n e d V i r g i n i u s L i t t l e p a g e the v o i c e of the
n e w r e gime was echoing in the loud, p u s h i n g B a b b i t r y of his
son, Curie, who,' a l read y at twenty-eight, w a s m a k i n g a c o n ­
spicuous " s u c c e s s ” b y cutt i n g up fine o l d estates into su b ­
divisions and with great gusto scarring the landscape with
newly- l a i d streets.
The V i rginia g e nt l e m a n faced an irreconcilable dilemma.
H e could subscribe to the n e w p r a c t i c e s an d enj o y the fieldday of p r o s p e r i t y as h i s g r a n d f a t h e r h a d enj o y e d the hunt, or
he could retreat into
”that evasive i d e a l i s m w h i c h ha d become
a second n a t u r e ” to so m a n y -of his kin d a nd p r e t e n d that things
were as t h e y u s e d to be.
To Miss G l asgow the h a r d e n i n g effect u p o n the youn g e r
generation of the n e w ideas, the n e w u n d i s c i p l i n e d freedom,
w a s par t i c u l a r l y disquieting.
As the doctor said in V e i n
of I r o n :
It* s my- belief that in the n e x t f i f t y years a w o m a n
who. sits at home in the evening w i l l be as extinct as
the dodo.
I n u r s e d a teething b a b y last n i g h t while the
m o t h e r and father went to a m o v i n g picture a nd stopped
for drinks o n the w a y home.
N e v e r la i d eyes on them
They Stooped to Folly, p. 133.
before in my life. But they'd have gone anyhow, and
left the child alone in the apartment, even if old man
Noah hadn’t heard it crying and offered to look after
it. 77
Even some of the young people of the best families
sought to acquire the same kind of false glitter that char78
acterized middle-class Milly Burden,' who wore a calloused
indifference regarding her adventure in impropriety.
At a
party in one of the very fine old homes on Washington Street,
while youth danced to the blare of jazz, snatches of conversa
tion like these could have been heard:
But sex has gone out. We'Ve changed the name of our
club from the Underworld to the High Flyers.
Oh, I say, will you go to that cockfight up in
Goochland? The police may raid it, you know,
Not really! Oh, what a thrill to be raided!
It was as Margaret Blair, true-born young Southern lady, ob­
It’s gone out of fashion to be superior. Nobody
even cares any longer about your being what you ought
to be. I ’ve been trained to be the kind of girl that
doesn’t get on today, full of all sorts of forgotten
virtues and refinements.°1
Vein of Iron, p. 350.
73 • .
They Stooped to Folly;
Franklin Street, Richmond.
Vein of Iron.
One Man in His Time, p. 80.
In Annabel Honeywell, of The Romantic Comedians, the
novelist depicted the most self-seeking of her votaries of
the new freedom.
An experimentalist in behavior, she might
well be called, theatrical and hard; she possessed that var­
nished savoir faire so characteristic of many of the younger
people of the day.
Purely as a speculation, she married
elderly Judge Honeywell and took all that he had to offer of
wealth and chivalric devotion.
When she fell madly in love
with another, she left her husband without compunction or
prick of remorse and consorted without benefit of divorce or
The definitions of "freedom” of the Virginia youth
of 1880 and 1920 had drifted poles apart.
The trend toward liberalism.
The same kaleidoscope of
changing social life since the World War, which at one moment
disclosed the dark-hued design set forth in the preceding
section, could present also another set of images of brighter
and more hopeful colors.
In training camps and at the front, the war taught
young Virginians of the plantation, the shop, and the farm
the meaning of a common understanding and a common loyalty.
In these years that followed, these young men again found
With this book the novelist completed her cycle of
feminine characters, from the selfless Virginia of four
decades before, to the utterly selfish Annabel of 1925.
themselves side "by side in the contacts of the "business world.
Out of cooperation and f r i e n d l y c o m p e t i t i o n came m u t u a l r e ­
In the R e d Cross rooms and the hospitals,
and shops,
and in various
in stores
civic enterprises the w o m e n came
to know and to appreciate m a n y w h o m they n e v e r could h a v e met
in their former social sphere.
less significant,
Class lines ten d e d to become
and at times f a d e d o u t altogether.
In two
of h e r p o st-war books M i s s Glasgow i n t r o d u c e d the situation
of m i x e d m a r r i a g e s which,
in the immediate families,
t h o u g h rega r d e d w i t h p e r t u r b a t i o n
e v o k e d little in the community.
M a r y V i c t o r i a Littlepage,
a b l o o d e d aristocrat,
of advanced ideas like h e r bro t h e r Curie m e n t i o n e d above,
we n t to Europe as a nurse during the war.
So t h o r o u g h l y did
she enjoy this p articul a r k i n d of release tha t she r e m a i n e d
in the b a t t l e-torn countries for five yea r s in a professional
On l y u p o n h e r impulsive m a r r i a g e w i t h a y o u n g
w o u n d e d soldier did she return.
As it happened,
certain u n ­
favorable facts about h er h u s b a n d did not come to light fo r
some months.
It.was disturbing,
of course,
to her f a m i l y
that he h a d grown up on one of th e w r o n g streets of Richmond,
that he w a s penniless,
tha t he h a d o n l y a common education,
and that his past was not above reproach;
but so lo n g as M a r y
V i c t o r i a lov e d h i m the Littlepages w e r e loyal and acquiescent.
They Stooped to Eolly.
The love match of Isabella Archbald, blue-blooded,
and Joseph Crocker, capable carpenter,
silent opposition from the Archbalds.
8A met at first with
It wouldn't do, the
old General thought, reacting to racial type.
But upon re­
flection he was forced to the candid admission, "God knows
the Archbalds have, lived down worse disgraces than overalls
in the family.”
When the marriage became a fact, and a
very happy one for the principals, sister-in-law Cora
Archbald set about in her own way making the adjustments she
thought family traditions required.
After hiring a genealo­
gist to look up Joseph's family, she asked the General one
day if he remembered her saying there must be good blood in
the Crocker family somewhere.
remember, my dear.
Joseph’s nose."
And the General replied: "I
You thought there was good blood in
Cora did not object to Joseph at all if
she could justify him according to the code of her class.
these words of hers she pays a final tribute to the tyranny
• of her social standards:
For one thing, the first Joseph Crocker came over
in 1635 and settled in James City County. He must have
been Joseph's earliest American ancestor. . . . Even
allowing for the gap where the county records were lost
or burned in the war, the descent is all perfectly
The Sheltered Life.
Ibid., p. 101.
Ibid., p. 232.
clear. . . . Oh, I haven’t told Isabella! She would
only make fun of it and ask me to spend the money on
little Erminia’s teeth.87
While Cora found satisfaction in explaining away the class
line by rebuilding it, Isabella, like so many of her genera­
tion, ignored it altogether.
Class distinction in Virginia had been throughout its
history one of its most cherished traditions.
Indeed, the
entire nation.-.acknowledged the phrase, if not the fact of
’’the First Families of Virginia.”
But consciousness of class
was losing its prestige, as the preceding pages have pointed
In its place was growing up, unobtrusively, a social
conscience, which was substituting a sense of unity and a
cooperative spirit among the people for the insularity and
prejudice that the fetish of class had so long engendered.
This significant change of attitude appeared in the novels of
Miss Glasgow only in scattered allusions, not because she was
unsympathetic toward it but because it was as yet an intima­
tion rather than a realization.
Its presence may be felt
unmistakably throughout the later books in the wishful think­
ing of her characters rather than in concrete action.
As old
General Archbald said to himself:
My generation felt about social injustice, and
John’s generation about social injustice, and perhaps
Ibid., p. 233.
who knows, the next generation, or the generation
after the next, may begin to act about social in­
In Vein of Iron, Ada Fincastle deplored the miserably
inadequate condition of the public wards in the county hospi­
Every time she visited her husband there, she became
more disheartened:
She couldn’t bear this hospital another week, she
decided. It wasn't only the discomfort for Ralph.
He had a private room, and she could bring clean sheets
and pillowcases from home, but whenever she came or
went, the relatives of poor patients would join her in
the street and describe the public wards down below,
There was dirt; there was neglect of the simplest
decencies; there were, some complained, vermin in the
mattresses and the bed-steads. Yet they dared not
protest to a bureaucracy that was founded on a politi­
cal rock. And the cost of dying, like the cost of
illness, made death the last extravagance of the
Socialized thinking was supplanting the old individu­
alism in the consideration of old-age pensions and workmen’s
Mr. Darrow prophesied the eventual care of the
unemployed through state and community agencies.
Page had .her tenements remodeled into modern apartments with
steam heat', bathrooms, and back yards full of trees.
established by private groups were opening for young working
The traditional generosity of the Southerner, always
Ibid., p. 270.
Vein of Iron, p. 343.
90 ■:
One Man in His Time.
ready to respond to the individual case of need, was gradu­
ally being translated into a sense of obligation toward the
community at large.
The case for the humanitarian point of view, which
Miss Glasgow calls "the power of share another’s pain" vand
- 91
"the greatest discovery of the mind,”
was nowhere given
finer' expression in her books than from the lips of John
Welch, a young physician:
Most people would tell you that I ’m no worse
than a crack-brained Socialist. But something upset
me this morning. There was an accident down at the
©hemical plant, and the helplessness of the poor al­
ways makes me see red when I come up against it like
that. Especially when there’s a fool of a philan­
thropist standing by who has learned nothing more
from two thousand years than ”ye have the poor always
with you.” No, I ’m not joking. . . . She thinks Im
disqualified as a physician because I told her that
poverty is a social disease and should be wiped out
like smallpox.92
Of all the men and women who people the pages of the
Glasgow novels, it is Corinna Page
above all others who has
given the answer to the problem of Virginia’s future.
in her own right possessed the finest qualities of the old
tradition and she was also endowed with a capacity to appreci­
ate and accept the best that the new democracy had to offer.
91 ' '
E l l e n Glasgow,
’’W h a t I b e l i e v e , ” The Nation,
404-6 , April 12, 1933.
The Sheltered L i f e , p. 298.
One Man in His Time.
Crass and undisciplined as it was, ’’relentless, disorderly,
and strewn with the wreckage of finer things,” she recognized
in its vital, abounding energy and enthusiasm the new blood
so needed to quicken the feeble pulses of an anemic culture.
”1 like the spirit,” she said, speaking of Patty Vetch,
to Stephen Culpepper, scion of an old-established family, who
had become disillusioned and indecisive because of the World
I like the spirit. It strikes me as American in
the best sense— that young longing to make up in some
way for her deficiencies and lack of opportunities,
that gallant determination to get the better of her
upbringing and her surroundings.94
For Corinna had befriended Patty Vetch, foster daughter
of a vigorous, socially idealistic plebeian
whom chance had
placed in the governor’s chair.
She had taken ’’this undis­
ciplined child with that curious sporting instinct which sup­
plied the place of Victorian morality” under her protection,
training her to choose her clothes with discrimination, ad­
vising her in the .refinements of taste and deportment.
best of all, she had taken into her understanding heart this
lonely little girl with a valiant soul so like her own.
Provincialism and evasive idealism were alike foreign
to Corinna’s mind.
Experience had made her a sophisticate.
Ibid., p. 54.
95 .
G-ideon Vetch, who is discussed in Chapter I.
She h a d w a n d e r e d about the w o r l d w i t h her father, w h o Ihad r
once be e n A m b a s s a d o r to Great Brit a i n and h a d l e a r n e d to
l o o k at life f r o m a cos m o p o l i t a n p o i n t of view.
a disastrous m a r r i a g e h a d taught- h e r to stand alone, r e l y i n g
on h e r o w n strength of spirit,
and to eye w i t h s y m p a t h y the
liberal m o d e of life of the t w e n t i e t h century.
F e e l i n g the n e e d of the com m o n touch,
terest larger than that w i t h i n h e r o wn class,
and of an i n ­
she h a d ope n e d
a shop on F r a n k l i n Street w h e r e she displayed rare old p r i n t s
so expensive that she never e x p e c t e d to sell them.
h a d m a d e friends with, the workman, Mr.
V e t c h and others of the com m o n folk.
There she
Darrow, w i t h P a t t y
"A shop is the o n l y
p l a c e , ” she said„ "where you m a y have calls f r o m people wh o
h a v e n ’t b e e n i ntroduced to you."
So it w a s quite nat u r a l that she should encourage a
f rien d s h i p between the high-bred,
sensitive y o u n g S t e p h e n and
l owly- b o r n P a t t y w i t h her direct a p p r o a c h to reality.
that u n i o n she could recognize a symbol,
for it w a s to h e r
the fusi o n of the best elements in the nature of p a t r i c i a n
and c o m m o n e r — refinemen t a n d vigor,
respect for t r a d i t i o n
and faith in the m e l i o r a t i o n of society.
M i s s G l asgow h e r s e l f d i s c e r n i n g l y summed up Cori n n a
Page, h e r type and symb o l of the V i r g i n i a n of the future.
Ibid.„ p. 37
With her grace and her radiance, she "stood for the flower
of Virginian aristocratic tradition” ; and "with her sincerity
and her fearlessness she embodied the American democratic
Her forefathers-
had stood from the beginning, for manners, for the
essence of social culture which places art at the
service'of life. . . . Always they had sought to
preserve the finer lessons of the past; always they
had struggled against the tyranny of mediocrity. . . .
From the inbred tendency toward order and suavity of
living, Corinna had derived her clear-eyed acceptance
of life and her nobility of mind.97
To her the Virginian of a new day depended for his happiness
upon his ability ”to combine opposite elements,” to "take
the good where he found it,” and to "vitalize tradition and
discipline progress.”
Ibid., p. 104.
Ibid., p. 322.
In sixteen novels Miss Glasgow has presented the social
history of Virginia from 1855 to 1932 and followed, as sum­
marized below, the changes of the period.
Politics. With the inevitable participation of Virginia
in the Civil War and the consequent overthrow of the old polit­
ical aristocracy upon the collapse of the Confederacy, Virginia
was subjected to twelve years of confusion and misrule, first
of the military and then of the Reconstruction governments.
When the government was returned, finally, to the citizenry,
the gentleman planter expended his last energies in the re­
establishment of white supremacy and a policy of strict econ­
omy; he then lapsed into a state of political inertia, from
which, as a class, he has never actually emerged.
The years
from 1880 to 1900 marked the revolt of the common man and the
rise to political power of the disgruntled farmer, who at­
tained control of the Virginia Assembly.
Gradually the in­
dustrial workers also gained influence; and the farmers and
the workers joined forces in opposing the reactionary group
composed of the remants of the agricultural aristocracy and
the increasingly powerful industrialists.
By 1920, the hope
of Virginia’s political future depended upon the utilization
of the aristocracy of ahle men, whether patrician or plebian.
The collapse of the plantation system,
consequent to the defeat of the Confederacy and the abolition
of slavery, resulted in realignment of ownership.
Some plan­
tations remained in the hands of the hereditary holders, some
fell to ambitious commoners, and many were divided into smaller
tracts and sold to neighboring farmers, poor whites, or Ne­
The plantations remaining were either managed by the
owners or rented, in part or in whole, to tenants, who came
to form the most hopeless and poverty-stricken class in the
Throughout the nineteenth century the nonproduGtivity
of an exhausted soil bound the agriculturist in poverty.
through the gradually increasing use, in the twentieth cen­
tury, of scientific methods and diversified farming has the
farmer found encouragement in his struggle with a barren soil.
The collapse of the plantation system in addition gave
impetus to industry in Virginia.
Begun on a modest scale,
manufacturing developed rapidly, stimulated the growth of
railroads and other monopolies, and gave birth to a capitalis­
tic class and their low-paid underlings.
In spite of indus­
trial growth, Virginia remains, however, primarily an agri­
cultural state.
Before the war, education was conceived of
as a privilege of the upper class and as preparation for the
life of a statesman or a stately gentleman.
conception "became liberalized.
After 1865» this
Young ladies were offered a
broader, though still superficial, education in the academies;
and the young men increasingly sought instruction in the more
practical branches of knowledge, though not neglecting the
The dominant feature of the educational scene, has
been the opposing points of view as to common education at
public expense; and so slow was the growth of opinion favor­
able to the democratic philosophy that not until about 1920
were reasonably adequate educational facilities available to
all the children of Virginia.
And the conflict between pro­
gressive and reactionary forces continues into the present.
Church affiliation continued throughout the
period under consideration to follow rather closely the an­
cestral pattern.
The old families inherited Episcopalianism
along with their other traditions, the Scotch-Irish accepted
the rock-ribbed Presbyterianism of their pioneer fathers, and
the lowlier groups espoused the more democratic doctrines of
the Methodists and the Baptists.
While the upper levels
showed an increasing tendency toward either liberalism or in­
difference in questions religious, the evangelical congrega­
tions asserted ever more aggressively their fundamentalist;
Now in the twentieth century, the chief threats to
religious virility lie in the assumption of church membership
as a social label, of complacence on the one hand and of un­
compromising fundamentalism on the other.
Social life.
The ante-bellum social structure of
aristocratic planters, the middle class, the poor whites, and
the Negroes drew sharp lines of distinction.
Plantation life,
supported by, the institution of slavery, presented an ideal
existence for the gentleman and his family, blending, as it
did, modest culture and leisure comfortably balanced by the
responsibilities of the master to, his slaves.
This system
having been uprooted, the Negro was loosed into an independence
for which he was ill prepared; the family of the master clung
desperately to their traditions, often the only inheritance
left them; and the intermediate classes now found an oppor­
tunity to expand beyond the barriers of class prejudice and
to rise in social level.
For sixty-five years, the conflict
continued between the prejudice of class and individualism,
between reaction and progress.
By 1915> the rich heritage of
the past stood in danger of being overwhelmed by the vigorous
onslaught of a new materialistic impulse; still the prospect
of a finer society could be found in the blending of the best
in the aristocratic ideal and in the democratic philosophy of
The investigator has found, in agreement with the
majority of Miss Glasgow’s critics, that the novelist has
succeeded to a marked degree in accomplishing her purpose,
that of presenting the changing social life of "Virginia over
a period of seven decades.
A "brief consideration, first, of
the social content of her "books and, secondly, of her quali­
fications as a novelist will serve to substantiate this con­
Miss Glasgow’s absorption in the drama of social change
within her native state is evidenced by the persistence with
which she has concentrated upon one field.
For a series of
regional novels to sustain such a uniformly high level of in­
terest and execution as one finds in Miss Glasgow's volumes
is indeed rare.
The reader is amazed at the vigor and fresh-
ness of each succeeding volume and at her singleness of pur­
From novel to novel one is conscious of an epic sweep,
a cumulative effect as the panoramic record of seventy years
of Virginia life unfolds.
Like the series of regional novels
by Anthony Trollope and Eden Phillpotts, the sixteen volumes
achieve a total effectiveness that arises from the sterling
quality of eachcunit in the sequence.
Miss Glasgqw writes: "I find one of the most fascinat­
ing dramas in all the facets of life to be the great epic of
changing conditions and the adjustment of individuals to the
new order. Naturally, the battle is always sharpest and most
dramatic in those places where the older system has been most
firmly entrenched, and that is why the new order in the South
has been attended by so many dramatic stories.” Quotation
from Grant M. Overton, The Women Who Make Our Novels, pp. 31-32.
In another respect Miss Glasgow demonstrates that she
has successfully achieved her purpose.
She has taken the
greatest care to be historically accurate in presenting the
life of a people over a prescribed period, as is corroborated
by documentary sources.
With minor exceptions she has in­
cluded all the various geographical areas of the state, from
the Blue Ridge to the Tidewater, and all types and classes
of society.
Peopling her pages are politicians, farmers,
shop-keepers, tycoons, Negroes, rustics, and planters, with
particular attention to all types of women from the delicate
"flower of the South," to the shop-girl and farm-wife.
the hand of a master she weaves into a complete pattern all
the threads that compose the social fabric.
As far as is humanly possible, Miss Glasgow attempts
to be detached in her attitude toward the members of all
social levels; but one detects a slight lack of understanding
in her treatment of the middle class and the Negro.
It is the opinion of the investigator that never
does Miss Glasgow allow historical detail to take precedence
over the story and that always her artistry observes a nice
respect for fundamental historical truth.
-Hugh Walpole writes: "I admire her because she has
never gone in for short cuts, there *s a fine thickness behind
her books so that when you have finished one of them you have
to extricate yourself as you do when you have been staying
for a long time with friends and have learned to share their
joys and surprises and troubles. I am sure that this business
of creating a world is the finest thing a novelist can do . . .
this business of creating a world is, I am sure, her chief
gift." Introduction to The Romance of a Plain Man (1926 ed.)
her small-farmer folk are well done, she seems to lack inter­
est in that numerous segment of the middle class who compose
town and village.
Her attitude toward the Negro, while sym­
pathetic, is traditionally Southern, in that she never seri­
ously concerns herself with the problem of his intellectual
and spiritual emancipation.
This slight fault in so discern­
ing and ubiquitious an observer may be laid to the three-fold
circumstance of sex, class, and temperament.
Being a Southern
lady, she has been limited in her opportunities for actual
contacts with the man and woman on the street; and, because
of a retiring nature, she prefers to keep within the walls of
her home, happiest in the company of her own thoughts.
and large, however, her portrayals are intelligent and sym­
pathetic .
Since Miss Glasgow*s treatment of social backgrounds
in Virginia has not been direct, but is expressed through the
medium of the fictive art, it remains to say a word about
those characteristics which she displays as a novelist and
which enhance the value of her works.
That the crowning glory of the novel is characteriza­
tion finds no contradiction in Ellen Glasgow.
of women of all classes and of men, both patrician and lower
plebian, she so deftly creates three-dimensional human beings,
capable of initiating action, as to arouse in the reader ac­
tive like or dislike.
Dialogue, that close ally of character­
ization, is sharply differentiated, in harmony with the speakers
whose language is never "Glasgowian."
Critics have seen fit
to commend especially the rich, racy flavor of her Negro
As to her use of settings it is enough to say that
they are often superb, not only as vivid word-pictures of
physical background, but as subtle studies in atmosphere or
mood, which establish proper accord between foreground and
Any reference to the description of persons or locale
necessitates a word about diction.
veals herself an artist.
Here, too, the writer re­
She has that indispensable faculty
of "pointing up" a character, a situation, or an observation
in a pungent phrase, the flavor of which lingers upon the
Although her prose possesses pronounced rhythmic
qualities, it scarcely makes greater appeal to the ear than to
the eye.
Her emotional power commands both the major and minor
Her tragic situations awaken in the reader pity rather
than fear; if not sublime, they are poignant in their presenta­
tion of suffering and frustration.
For humor and irony she
has an especial aptitude, often tartly phrased in epigram.
The former is subtle and discriminating, to be appreciated
Early in her career the London Spectator acknowledged
her to be America*s leading stylist. Emily Clark, Innocence
Abroad, p. 58*
only by the alert reader.
It is accompanied by a twinkle in
the eye and the ghost of a smile.
The presence of irony be­
speaks her frequent indignation at the stupidity and meanness
of human behavior, but never does it defeat its own ends by
an ill-tempered cynicism, for at its very heart sympathy often
Her friend and fellow-townsman, James Branch Cabell,
shrewdly observes that no matter how virulently ironic may be
the nature of the major situation in any one of her stories,
the book invariably ends, not in defeat, nor always on a note
of deliverance, but at least with some kind of compensation to
the major characters for what life has taken from them or per5
haps never given them at all.
Finally, notice should be taken of Miss Glasgow1s
philosophy, although one must be mindful that as an objective
novelist, she keeps herself detached from her stories.
the thoughtful reader may deduce from a character here or a
piece of dialogue there, or from the turn of a phrase or a
point of emphasis, what appears to be an unconscious revealing
of her allegiances.
Thus, her philosophy, a determining fac­
tor in the treatment of material for a social history, is
deserving of mention.
Miss Glasgow is a nonconformist,
Dorothea Mann, editor, Ellen Glasgow, p. 31.
Miss' Glasgow states: "I was born with a non-conformist
mind at a time when being a rebel, even an intellectual one,
was less exciting and more uncomfortable-than it is nowadays.”
"What I Believe," The Nation. 136:404-406, April 12, 1933.
the social scene impersonally and with independence of atti­
She believes that the individual should richly experi­
ence love and beauty and with bupyant courage face defeat.
Her hatred of any form of sham and intolerence is persistent
and vocal; she is the advocate of all eonstruetive endeavor
and unselfish service.. She has an abiding faith in democracy,
but a democracy that redefines breeding and culture with em­
phasis upon the dignity of the disciplined mind, faith in the
tolerant sympathy of the understanding heart.
It has been clearly demonstrated that Ellen Glasgow
has succeeded in recording the changing social life of
Virginia from the period of the Civil War to the present,
with sincerity, understanding, and effectiveness of expres­
Judged by her own standards, Miss Glasgow is an authen­
tic literary artist.
She has specified that a novelist must
first "show an ability to create personalities; second, he
must exhibit a sincerity of style; and third, he must evince
the capacity for an intelligent criticism of life."
Miss Glasgow’s intelligent criticism and comprehensive
Miss Glasgow writes that the meaning of "well-bred”
includes "all the qualities that lend needed dignity to human
nature and appear on the surface of life as fine breeding—
courtesy, restraint, forbearance, consideration for others.”
"What I Believe,” loc. cit.
Overton, o£. cit., pp. 27-28.
treatment of social forces is aptly summarized in the words
of Doctor Edwin Mims, who says:
No one has written with more penetration and dis­
crimination about the forces of reaction and progress
that have been for half a century contending for
supremacy in the South.. She has written, artistically,
to be sure, about social life and customs, politics,
science, religion, education, material progress, and
all other major concerns. There is not a single pro­
gressive .movement in the South today that may not find
enlightment and inspiration in some of her novels.9
”The Social Philosophy of Ellen Glasgow,” Social
Forces. U* 495-503, March, 1936.
BOOKS (In chronological order)
The Descendant,
New York: Harper and Brothers, 1897.
Phases of an Inferior Planet.
The Voice of the People.
Company, 1900.
The Battle-Ground.
The Deliverance.
New York: Harper and Brothers,
New York: Doubleday, Page and
New York: Doubleday, Page and Company,
New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1904..
The Wheel of Life.
New York: Doubleday, Page and Company,
The Ancient Law.
New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1908.
The Romance of a Plain Man. Garden City: Doubleday, Page and
Company, 191CL ("Only 1926 edition available.)
The Miller of Old Church.
Company, 1911.
Garden City: Doubleday, Page and
New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1913.
Life and Gabriella.
Garden City: Doubleday, Page and Company,
The'Builders. New York: Doubleday, Page and Gompany, 1919.
One Man in His Time.
Barren Ground.
New York: Doubleday, Page and Company,
Garden City: Doubleday, Page and Company,
The Romantic Comedians.
C ompany, 1926.
Garden City: Doubleday, Page and
They Stooped to Polly.
Company, 1929.
Garden City: Doubleday, Doran and
The Sheltered Life.
pany, 1932.
Vein of Iron.
Garden City:- Doubleday, Doran and Com­
Garden City: Doubleday,. Doran and Company, 1935*
The Shadowy Third, and Other Stories. New York: Doubleday,
Page and Company, 1923.
The F r eeman and Other P o e m s . New York: H a r p e r and Brothers,
T R a r e — out of print.)
(In chrono l o g i c a l order)
nThe Novel in the South,” Harper’s Magazine, 158:93-100,
December, 1928.
’’Biography of Manuel,” The Saturday Review of Literature,
6:1108-9, June 7, 1930.
’’What I Believe,” The Nation, 136:404-406, April 12, 1933’’One Way to Write Novels,” The Saturday Review of Literature,
11:337, December 8, 1934.
"Heroes and Monsters," The Saturday Review of Literature,
12:3-4, May 4 , 193$.
"Elder and Younger Brother,” The Saturday Review of Literature,
15:3-5, January 23, 1937.
Adams, James Truslow, The March of Democracy: A History of
the United States. New York: Charles Scribners Sons,
Benedict, Mary K . , "The Higher Education of Women in the
Southern States," The South in the Building of the
Nation. Samuel C. Mitchell, editor. Richmond:
The Southern Historical Publications, 1909. Volume 10;
pp. 258-27.1.
Cason, Clarence E . , "Middle Class and Bourbon," Culture in
the South. W. T. Couch, editor. Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1935. Pp. 479-500.
Clark, Emily, Innocence Abroad.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
Claxton, Philander P., "Educational Ideals and Tendencies in
the South," The South in the Building of the Nation.
Samuel C. Mitchell, editor. Richmond: The Southern
Historical Publications, 1909. Volume 10; pp. 398-427.
Collins, Joseph, "The Big Four of American Women Writers,"
Taking the Literary Pulse. New York: George H. Doran
Company, 1924.
Cooke, John E., Virginia, A History of the People.
1903} Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1887.
Couch, W. T., "The Negro in the South," Culture in the South.
W. T. Couch, editor. Chapel Hill: The University of
North Carolina Press, 1935. Pp. 432-477.
Davidson, Donald, "The Trend of Literature," Culture in the
South. 'W. T. Couch, editor. Chapel Hill: University of .
North Carolina Press, 1935.
Den Hollander, A. N. J., "The Tradition of ’Poor Whites,’"
Culture in the South. W. T. Couch, editor. Chapel Hill:
The University of North Carolina Press, 1935. Pp. 403-431
Dodd, William E . , The Colton Kingdom: A Chronicle of the Old
South. The Chronicles of America Series, volume 27,
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1919*
Fleming, Walter L., The Sequel of Appomattox. The Chronicles
of America Series, volume 32,. New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1919.
Fulton, Robert Burwell, "Education in the South Before the
War,” The South in the Building of the Nation. Samuel
C. Mitchell, editor. Richmond': The Southern Historical
Publications, 1909. Volume 10; pp. 196-208.
Hatcher, Harlan; Creating the American Novel.
Farrar and Rinehart, 1935.
New York:.
Hesseltine, William B., A History of the South: 1607-1936.
New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1936.
Johnson, David B., "Normal Education in the South," The South
in the Building of the Nation. Samuel C. Mitchell, editor.
Richmond: The Southern Historical Publications, 1909..
Volume .10; pp. 294-302.
Mann, Dorothea Lawrence, Ellen Glasgow. Essays by-J. B. Cabell,
Joseph Collins, and Carl Van Vechten. Carden City:
Doubleday, Page and Company, 1927.
Mims, Edwin A., The Advaneing South♦
Page and Company, 1926.
Carden City: Doubleday,
Morton, Richard L., History of Virginia.
Historical Society, 1924.
New York: American
Overton, Grant M . , The Women Who Make Our.Novels.
Moffat, Yard and Company, 1922.
New York: ■
Poe-, Clarence, "The Farmer and His Future," Culture in the
South. W. T. Couch, editor. Chapel Hill: The University
of North Carolina Press, 1935. Pp. 319-343.
Poteat, Edwin McNeill, Jr., "Religion in the South," Culture
in the South. W. T. Couch, editor. Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1935. Pp. 248-269.
Sherman, Stuart P., Critical Woodcuts.
Scribner’s Sons, 1926.
New York: Charles
Taunenbaum, Frank, Darker Phases of the South.
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1924.
New York-London:
Thompson, Holland, The New South: A Chronicle of Social and
Industrial Evolution. The Chronicles of America Series,
volume 42. NewHaven: Yale University Press, 1919.
Bronson, E. C., "Farm Tenancy in the South," Social Forces,
Clark, Emily, "Ellen Glasgow,” The Virginia Quarterly Review,
5:182, 191, April, 1929. '
Dabney, Virginius, "Ellen Glasgow, the 'South’s Foremost
Novelist," The Richmond Magazine, November, 1929, pp. AO-44.
Fishburn, Junius P., "The New Virginia," The Review of Re­
views , 81:114-119, June, 1930.
Freeman, Douglas, "Virginia, a Gentle Dominion," The Nation,
119:68-71, June 16, 1924.
Landrum, Grace W . , "Notes on the Reading of the Old South,"
.American Literature, -3:60-71, March, 1931.
_______, "Sir Walter Scott and His Literature Rivals in the
Old South," American Literature, 2:256-276, November,
Mann, Dorothea L., "Ellen Glasgow: Citizen of the World,"
The Bookman, 64:265-271, November, 1926.
Mims, Edwin A., "The Social Philosophy of Ellen Glasgow,"
Social Forces, 4:495-503, March, 1926.
Showalter, William J., "Virginia, a Commonwealth That Has
Come Back," The National Geographic, 55:403-72, April, 1929.
Willcox, Louise C., "The South in Fiction,” The Bookman,
33:44-57, Marc£, 1911.
Wilson, James Southall, "Ellen Glasgow: Ironic Idealist,”
The Virginia Quarterly Review, 15:121-126, Winter, 1939.
_______, "Ellen Glasgow’s Novels," The Virginia Quarterly
Review, 9:595-600, October, 1933.
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